Ibuprofen Might Not Be That Safe After All, According to a New Study

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Ibuprofen.Photo: geotrac/Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s long been thought that certain over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are safer than other pain-relievers. However, a new study found that these drugs actually might not be that great for your kidneys and heart when used long-term.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as Advil and Motrin, are commonly used to relieve joint pain and headaches, and are also used in higher doses for people with chronic pain. A certain type of NSAID — COX-2 inhibitors — were originally found to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, while also being easier on the stomach, Time reports. As a result, two COX-2 inhibitors were removed from the market, with only celecoxib (or Celebrex) remaining.

Yet, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that celecoxib doesn’t cause more heart events than ibuprofen and naproxen. In fact, celecoxib may actually lead to fewer kidney problems, according to the study’s lead author Dr. Steven Nissen, of the Cleveland Clinic:

“I would have never guessed these results. The whole world has been saying for a decade now that if you must take an NSAID, you probably ought to take naproxen because it’s the safest. We just don’t see that in these results. In almost every measure, ibuprofen looks worse, naproxen is intermediate and celecoxib is the best.”

The heart risks associated with ibuprofen and naproxen don’t necessarily apply to those who just use them as short-term fixes, according to the study. So at this time, there’s no need to toss your ibuprofen or naproxen if you only use them every once in a while.