Two of the less common painkillers - Arcoxin (etoricoxib) and Voltarol (diclofenac) - were the most dangerous, quadrupling the chances of a fatal heart attack, say researchers from the University of Bern, Switzerland.
The researchers were alerted to the potential dangers of anti-inflammatory painkillers following the withdrawal of Vioxx (rofecoxib) after it was found to cause heart disease and death.
Vioxx was a COX-2 inhibitor, a 'new generation' anti-inflammatory supposedly safer than the older NSAIDs (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs), such as aspirin. But the researchers found that the risk exists across the entire family of drugs when they analysed the results of 31 drug trials, involving 116,429 participants.
The researchers conclude that the drugs - many of which can be purchased without a prescription in pharmacies - are not safe, and should be taken with great care.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2011; 342: c7086).