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NSAIDs Could Increase Blood Pressure in Arthritis Patients

A new study published in the European Heart Journal indicates that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, might raise blood pressure in patients with arthritis. According to the study, 30 million Americans have osteoarthritis. Of those patients, 40 percent also have high blood pressure.

By managing high blood pressure in patients with arthritis, more than 70,000 stroke deaths and more than 60,000 heart disease deaths could be prevented each year.

The researchers in the study looked at the effects of celecoxib with NSAIDs naproxen and ibuprofen. At 60 different locations in the United States, a total of 444 patients were randomly assigned to receive one dose of celecoxib twice per day, one dose of ibuprofen three times per day, naproxen twice per day, or matching placebos.

Of these patients, 92 percent had osteoarthritis and 8 percent had rheumatoid arthritis. All had symptoms of heart disease or were at an increased risk. After four months, researchers noted that celecoxib lowered blood pressure slightly, while ibuprofen and naproxen raised it. In fact, 23 percent of patients with previously normal blood pressure developed high blood pressure with ibuprofen, compared with 19 percent with naproxen and only 10 percent for celecoxib.

NSAIDs are among the most common medications used in the world. Almost 19 percent of Americans routinely use at least one. While the labels on NSAIDs warn patients about possible increases in blood pressure, there is not much evidence on how specific drugs affect blood pressure.

Dr. Frank Ruschitzka, the lead researcher and co-head of the Department of Cardiology at the University Heart Centre in Zurich, stated that elevated cardiovascular risk involved with NSAIDs may be due in part to drug-specific increases in blood pressure. Dr. Ruschitzka added that patients with arthritis and osteoarthritis should talk to their doctors before taking NSAIDs, and weigh the potential risks.

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