Many doctors should change the way they prescribe pain relievers for chronic pain in patients with or at risk for heart disease based on accumulated evidence that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), with the exception of aspirin, increase risk for heart attack and stroke, according to an American Heart Association statement published today in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.
"We believe that some physicians have been prescribing the new COX-2 inhibitors as the first line of treatment. We are turning that around and saying that, for chronic pain in patients with known heart disease or who are at risk for heart disease, these drugs should be the last line of treatment," said Elliott M. Antman, M.D., FAHA, lead author of the American Heart Association scientific statement and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.
"We advise physicians to start with non-pharmacologic treatments such as physical therapy and exercise, weight loss to reduce stress on joints, and heat or cold therapy. If the non-pharmacologic approach does not provide enough pain relief or control of symptoms, we recommend a stepped-care approach when it comes to prescribing drugs," he added.
"Take into account the patient's health history and consider acetaminophen, aspirin and even short-term use of narcotic analgesics as the first step. If further relief is needed, physicians should suggest the least selective COX-2 inhibitors first, moving progressively toward more selective COX-2 inhibitors, which are at the bottom of the list, only if needed. All drugs should be used at the lowest dose necessary to control symptoms and prescribed for the shortest time possible."
Drugs in the NSAIDs class work by inhibiting cyclooxygenase (COX), an enzyme system that comes in two major forms: COX-1, which the body produces constantly in most tissues, and COX-2, produced during the body's inflammatory response. Becaus
Contact: Cathy Lewis
American Heart Association