Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Taking ibuprofen every day 'can raise the risk of strokes'

All I think this shows is that people ill enough to take a lot of strong painkillers are prone to other disorders. The painkillers may have nothing to do with it

Painkillers including ibuprofen and common arthritis treatments can drastically increase the risk of strokes, warns a major study. Patients taking the drugs daily are more likely to develop an irregular heartbeat - which can be deadly.

Research involving 30,000 patients found that the group of treatments which includes ibuprofen raised the risk of this complication by 40 per cent. And a group of painkillers known as Cox-2 inhibitors, which include Celebrex and other common drugs for arthritis, increased the likelihood by 70 per cent.

Research has already shown that ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, and Cox-2 inhibitors increased the risk of heart disease. Certain treatments have been taken off the market because the risk was so high.

But this is the first time scientists have found that the drugs raised the likelihood of abnormal heart rhythm - known as atrial fibrillation - which can lead to a stroke.

The study in Denmark looked at 32,602 patients who had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation from 1999 to 2008.

It found that patients who had been using drugs such as ibuprofen every day within the previous two months were 40 per cent more likely to develop an abnormal heart rhythm.

Those who started taking Cox-2 inhibitors daily within the previous two months were 70 per cent more likely to develop the condition.

The study published online in the British Medical Journal found that the elderly, those with rheumatoid arthritis or with chronic kidney disease were at a particularly high risk.

It also found, however, that patients who had been on the drugs for longer than two months seemed to be less at risk than those who had just started taking them.

The exact numbers of people taking both types of drugs regularly is not known. Experts last night stressed that the risk was low.

Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: 'This study suggests a link between common pain relief medicines and an increased risk of developing particular abnormal heart rhythms, known as atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter.

'However it’s important to note that the overall risk from these drugs and abnormal heart rhythms is still small. Those most at risk were the elderly or people with other illnesses, such as chronic kidney disease or rheumatoid arthritis.

'The study also noted that NSAIDs, which include ibuprofen, carried a lower risk than drugs in the COX 2 inhibitor group. 'Doctors are rightly already cautious about prescribing COX 2 inhibitors for people with heart and circulatory disease or at high risk of developing it.

'As with any drug, there are risks and benefits to be had. Talking these through with your GP will help ensure the benefits outweigh any risks involved.'


Two-minute 'cure' for glaucoma

This sounds hopeful but I doubt that it should be introduced generally without waiting for any possible side-effects to emerge

A two-minute 'cure' for glaucoma that uses intensely focused beams of ultrasound has been unveiled by scientists.

Most cases of glaucoma, which affects about 600,000 people in Britain, are caused by a build-up of pressure in the eye. This can damage the optic nerve and, in time, lead to loss of vision and even blindness.

At the moment those with mild to moderate glaucoma tend to be treated with eye drops which relieve some of the pressure. Those with more serious cases undergo surgery to unblock thin tubes which normally drain away an eye liquid called aqueous humour.

Now French scientists have come up with a technique using focused ultrasound, which enables them to heat up and kill cells in the tiny gland that produces aqueous humour and stop it secreting so much.

Prof Philippe Denis, an ophthalmologist in Lyon who has undertaken pioneering surgery with the technique, said: "We turn off the tap, and reduce the pressure in the eye".

Fabrice Romano, chief executive of EyeTechCare, which came up with the procedure, said it was safe and painless, more reliable than both traditional and laser surgery - and quicker. "It can be done in less than two minutes," he said.

He stressed that, like all treatment, it could at best stop damage caused by glaucoma, and not reverse that already sustained by the optic nerve.

The company, which is presenting results from its first 20 patients at the World Glaucoma Congress in Paris this weekend, hopes the procedure will be available in Britain early next year. It is likely to cost about £500 per eye, but the firm hopes it will be available on the NHS in time.

David Wright, chief executive of the International Glaucoma Association, a London-based charity, welcomed the technique.

He said: "The EyeTechCare development of high frequency ultrasound to treat glaucoma is an interesting innovation which, should wider and longer term clinical trials show the same results as those already carried out, would be a most welcome and useful addition to the current range of glaucoma management techniques."


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