Pain Killers May Kill and Heal -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine

The data obtained by researchers at the Norwegian Radium Hospital and the National Hospital in Oslo support recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration moves, which recently mandated special “black box” warning labels on all NSAID pain relievers except aspirin.

“Our findings highlight how a commonly used drug can have a benefit from the standpoint of cancer prevention but can also have side effects - in this case, an increased risk for cardiovascular death,” said Dr. Andrew Dannenberg, Director of Cancer Prevention at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.

The research team took a retrospective look at data collected prospectively from 1975 to 1995 on more than 123,000 adults participating in the Norwegian Health Survey. The Scientists narrowed their focus to 454 people with oral cancer and 454 others without such malignancies matched for age and sex. All of the individuals had a history of heavy smoking.

The researchers found a correlation between adults who were prescribed NSAIDs for six months or more: They had a 53 percent lowered risk for oral malignancies but a raised risk of cardiovascular disease. This type of elevated heart risk had already been noted with a subclass of NSAIDs called COX-2 inhibitors.

But the study does have its limitations. First, the NSAIDs used in the study were available to Norwegians via prescription only, and it's not clear whether dosages were similar in strength to popular American over-the-counter products. Therefore, it is difficult to make sweeping generalizations until the results are confirmed by much larger, prospective trials.; Source: University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center