Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the most widely used drugs in the world. They are chiefly used to treat pain but their long-term use has been limited by serious gastro-intestinal side effects. Newer types of NSAIDs, such as COX-2 inhibitors, seemed to offer the same analgesic effects as their more traditional counterparts, but without the same level of gastro-intestinal toxicity. However, there are concerns that these newer drugs – which include VIOXX – also increase the risk of heart attacks, and the full extent of side effects from all NSAIDs is still not particularly well characterised.
New research published in the Lancet aims to provide much greater detail and information about the vascular and gastro-intestinal effects of NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and diclofenac. This large international study includes meta-analyses of hundreds of randomised trials, and has been funded by the Medical Research Council and British Heart Foundation.
The lead author, from the University of Oxford’s Clinical Trial Service Unit, came to the SMC to discuss their work and answer questions about its implications for patients and the public.
Prof Colin Baigent, Professor of Epidemiology and Honorary Consultant in Public Health, Clinical Trial Service Unit, University of Oxford
Catherine Elliott, Head of Clinical Research Support and Ethics, Medical Research Council