This MiniReview describes the present evidence for the relationship between cardiovascular risk and use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with special focus using Danish register-based data. NSAIDs are among the most widely used drugs worldwide and mainly used for management of pain and inflammatory conditions. Through the past decade, much attention has been given to the cardiovascular safety of these drugs, and several studies have shown increased risk of adverse cardiovascular effects associated with NSAID use. Current guidelines discourage any use of NSAIDs in patients with cardiovascular disease, yet over a period of 8-10 years, 35-44% of patients with myocardial infarction or heart failure were exposed to NSAIDs in Denmark. Furthermore, NSAID use was associated with an increased risk of death or myocardial infarction by up to 5 times that of non-users. There was also a clear indication for a dose-related response in risk associated with NSAID therapy, supporting a causal association. Notably, the cardiovascular risk associated with NSAID treatment was prevalent at start of treatment, suggesting no safe treatment window for NSAIDs in patients with cardiovascular disease. Thus, evidence from observational studies is accumulating, suggesting that NSAIDs are a major public health concern due to the widespread use of these drugs. Although it seems unlikely that we can completely avoid use of NSAIDs, even among high-risk patients, these results highlight the importance of balancing the benefit versus the risk of treatment before initiating NSAID treatment.
Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, 2014, Vol 115, Issue 2, p. 179-184