Non-aspirin NSAIDs only one of many heart risks

cholesterol: heart on ecg graph

A renewed US Food and Drug Administration warning on non-aspirin NSAIDs and cardiovascular health is in line with current TGA recommendations – and community pharmacy can help educate consumers about the issue, a spokesperson for the Heart Foundation says.

The FDA is strengthening an existing label warning that non-aspirin NSAIDs increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke.

“Based on our comprehensive review of new safety information, we are requiring updates to the drug labels of all prescription NSAIDs,” the FDA says.

These side effects can occur as early as the first few weeks of using an NSAID, and the risk might rise the longer people take NSAIDs, it says.

Professor David Brieger, Heart Foundation of Australia board member and cardiologist, told the AJP that consumers would benefit from trying to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease from all factors.

“NSAIDs are highly effective drugs for managing inflammation and pain; but patients with heart disease or who have risk factors for heart disease should speak to their GP or pharmacist before taking them,” Prof Brieger says.

“For general pain relief in these patients, paracetamol should be the first choice as this does not interact with heart medicine.”

But he says that NSAID use is only one of many factors in cardiovascular disease.

“With the majority of Australians being overweight, spending more time sitting and less time moving, along with the millions of people who eat in fast food restaurants every day rather than having a healthier meal made at home, there are great gains to be made from better management of lifestyle risk factors,” he says.

“The Heart Foundation would advise the best chance of reducing your risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in Australia, is to take a more holistic approach to health and to make incremental steps to improve all areas rather than focussing on improving diet or physical activity in isolation.”

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of heart disease is to keep an eye on all these factors, he told the AJP.

“You need to look for the everyday opportunities to be healthy such as taking the stairs over the lift, limiting your intake of salty, sugary and fatty snack foods, and not smoking.

“There is an important role for pharmacists and pharmacy assistants in providing frontline assistance in the fight against heart disease.

“Pharmacists can advise on managing lifestyle risk factors and medication adherence and refer back to treating GPs on clinical risk factors.

“Pharmacy staff can also identify patients presenting with symptoms of heart attack and provide the right medical assistance including calling Triple Zero.”

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