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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Painkillers safety to be probed
Pills
The agency has already made recommendations on painkillers
The safety of common painkillers like ibuprofen is to be investigated, European regulators say.

The European Medicines Agency said it would look again at the cardiovascular safety of non-selective non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Last year it recommended changes in the way such drugs are prescribed to ensure consistency across the EU.

Millions of people regularly take the drugs, but there have been fears over their relation to heart attacks.

In June, studies showed that ibuprofen and diclofenac could double the risk of patients suffering a heart attack when taken in high doses.

Over recent years, there has been a mounting body of evidence that taking high doses of some NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, increases the chances of having a heart attack
Professor Peter Weissberg, of the British Heart Foundation

They found that, as expected, COX-2 inhibitors doubled the risk of an attack but so did NSAIDs.

When all "vascular events" - heart attacks, stroke or vascular disease - were taken together, the risks increased by 40% on the drugs.

Vioxx, which is part of a group of anti-inflammatories known as COX-2 inhibitors, was taken off the market in 2004 after it was shown that patients on the drug were more than twice as likely to have heart attacks as those not taking it.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Rome carried out the June study, which was published in the British Medical Journal.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, welcomed the move.

He added: "Over recent years, there has been a mounting body of evidence that taking high doses of some NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, increases the chances of having a heart attack.

"However, it is important people know that the increased risk is small."


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