A new study has linked over-the-counter doses of common painkillers known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), to an elevated risk of heart attack.
The probability of a heart attack was found to increase by an average of 20 per cent to 50 per cent, as compared with those not taking the drugs, regardless of the dosage and amount of time the medications were taken.
The findings were observational and were based on an association. Also the drugs had not been proved to be a direct cause of heart attack.
The group of drugs included ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxib and naproxen, which were available over the counter or by prescription for higher doses, to relieve pain or fever due to a range of causes, including flu, headaches, back pain and menstrual cramps.
Their range of use also meant they were often taken as needed, for short periods of time.
The level of risk was found to rise as early as one week into the use of any drug in this category and at any dose. Also the risk associated with taking higher doses peaked within the first month.
"We found that all common NSAIDs shared a heightened risk of heart attack," said Michèle Bally, an epidemiologist at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center, who led the research, CNN reported.
"There is a perception that naproxen has the lowest cardiovascular risk (among the NSAIDs), but that's not true."
However, according to scientists, there were several factors that made it difficult to be absolutely certain of the link.
According to Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of statistics at The Open University, the paper threw some light on possible relationships between Nsaid painkillers and heart attacks.
He added "Despite the large number of patients involved, some aspects do still remain pretty unclear, BBC reported.
"It remains possible that the painkillers aren't actually the cause of the extra heart attacks."