Painkillers including ibuprofen and common arthritis treatments can drastically increase the risk of strokes, warns a major study.
Patients taking the drugs daily are more likely to develop an irregular heartbeat – which can be deadly.
Research involving 30,000 patients found that the group of treatments which includes ibuprofen raised the risk of this complication by 40 per cent.
And a group of painkillers known as Cox-2 inhibitors, which include Celebrex and other common drugs for arthritis, increased the likelihood by 70 per cent.
Research has already shown that ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, and Cox-2 inhibitors increased the risk of heart disease.
Certain treatments have been taken off the market because the risk was so high.
But this is the first time scientists have found that the drugs raised the likelihood of abnormal heart rhythm – known as atrial fibrillation – which can lead to a stroke.
The study in Denmark looked at 32,602 patients who had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation from 1999 to 2008.
It found that patients who had been using drugs such as ibuprofen every day within the previous two months were 40 per cent more likely to develop an abnormal heart rhythm.
Those who started taking Cox-2 inhibitors daily within the previous two months were 70 per cent more likely to develop the condition.
The study published online in the British Medical Journal found that the elderly, those with rheumatoid arthritis or with chronic kidney disease were at a particularly high risk.
It also found, however, that patients who had been on the drugs for longer than two months seemed to be less at risk than those who had just started taking them.
The exact numbers of people taking both types of drugs regularly is not known.Experts last night stressed that the risk was low.