non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

  1. Painkillers up miscarriage risk

    You wouldn't dream of pumping a newborn full of powerful painkillers like ibuprofen -- yet nearly a fifth of all pregnant women take these meds during pregnancy... and it's killing their unborn children.

    Some of the most common painkillers of all -- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen -- can dramatically boost the risk of miscarriage.

    Canadian researchers compared data on 4,705 women who suffered a miscarriage during the first five months of pregnancy to 45,050 women who did not, and found that those who took the painkillers had 2.4 times the risk.

    Putting that into stark real terms, a woman has a 15 percent risk of miscarriage right off the bat -- but if she's been popping these painkillers, that risk shoots up to 35 percent.

    And believe it or not, those numbers might be on the low side: The researchers used prescription drug records, not self-reported use, to figure out who had taken the painkillers.

    That leaves out the scores of women who take over-the-counter drugs -- because in Canada, as in the United States, both ibuprofen and naproxen are widely available.

    Other NSAIDs include rofecoxib, diclofenac and celecoxib -- but don't put too much effort into memorizing those names. Most of the drugs that have become a common part of the household medicine chest aren't nearly as safe as you've been led to believe, and that's especially true during pregnancy.

    On the other hand, you never needed those drugs in the first place -- and pregnancy is a great opportunity to wean yourself off them for good as you explore the safe and effective nondrug alternatives that have helped millions beat pain, even during pregnancy.

    One study a couple years back found that 81 percent of pregnant women who suffered from back pain got at least some relief from acupuncture -- versus 59 percent of women who got a sham treatment.

    The needles don't hurt -- in fact, you'll barely feel them.

    But if acupuncture's not for you, try a good rub: Not only is massage therapy proven to bring pain relief to pregnant women, but it also can have a powerful stimulating effect on the immune system.

    And that's something that can benefit mom and baby alike.

  2. Painkillers boost heart risk

    Survive a heart attack, and you can count yourself among the lucky.

    You're alive.

    But if you pop a painkiller afterwards, your luck might quickly run out: A new study links some of the world's most commonly used drugs to an increased risk of a second heart attack.

    Researchers say non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can boost the risk of another attack or even death by as much as 45 percent in a single week of use -- and by 55 percent after three months.

    The study of 83,677 Danish heart attack patients found the highest risks among those who used diclofenac, a common generic painkiller that's also sold under the names Voltaren and Cataflam.

    The researchers say diclofenac tripled and even quadrupled the odds of heart attack or death in the first week alone. The odds went down after that first week... but they could hardly go up from there, could they?

    Diclofenac was so dangerous that it actually did worse in this study than Vioxx, the drug banned over its heart risk.

    That's not exactly the kind of company you want your meds to keep.

    Researchers say naproxen appeared to be safest, because it "only" increased the risk in the first week of use. Ibuprofen was next, "only" increasing the risk of death by 4 percent in the first week -- but that risk continued to climb the longer it was used, maxing out in week six.

    But if you think you can carefully pick your painkillers and find one that's completely safe, you're wasting your time.

    All of these meds come with risks, and NSAIDs have some of the most notorious -- including serious internal bleeding. These drugs are responsible for up to 20 percent of all ulcers... and I wouldn't be surprised if they played a supporting role in the other 80 percent.

    For men, there's another risk that might be even worse: erectile dysfunction.

    One study I told you about earlier this year found that men who use NSAIDs daily have a 22 percent higher risk of penis problems than men who don't. (Read more here.)

    You might think that having sex is the last thing you should be doing after a heart attack -- but believe it or not, research has shown that keeping busy in the bedroom can actually help you recover.

    Coincidentally, it's also one of the best natural forms of pain relief around.

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