No plans to restrict ibuprofen, despite cardiac risk

Ibuprofen belongs to a group of painkillers called NSAIDs (Getty)
Ibuprofen belongs to a group of painkillers called NSAIDs (Getty)

Medsafe says it's comfortable with ibuprofen being sold over the counter, despite new research linking it to increased risk of cardiac arrest.

A new study from the Netherlands found ibuprofen, sold under brand names such as Nurofen and Maxigesic, increased users' risk of cardiac arrest by 31 percent.

Diclofenac, known here as Voltaren, boosted the risk by 50 percent.

"I don't think these drugs should be sold in supermarkets or petrol stations where there is no professional advice on how to use them," said lead researcher Prof Gunnar Gislason, professor of cardiology at Copenhagen University Hospital.

But Medsafe, New Zealand's medical regulatory body, told Newshub its advice hasn't changed.

"Medsafe's advice for NSAIDs, including ibuprofen and diclofenac, is to take the minimum effective dose for the shortest amount of time," said Chris James, general manager.

Medsafe last reviewed ibuprofen's safety in 2015.

"The data suggests there is no increased risk of myocardial infarction in doses less than or equal to 1200 mg daily," said Mr James.

"For patients requiring higher doses from their doctor; the doctor should discuss the benefits and risks of treatment with the patient."

Medsafe will be taking a closer look at the Dutch study to see if these guidelines need to be reviewed.

Despite their popularity, both ibuprofen and diclofenac proved a greater risk in the Dutch study than naproxen, celecoxib and rofecoxib. The study notes however the lack of link between those three drugs and cardiac arrest could be down to their minimal usage.

Dicloefenac sodium, naproxen and celecoxib are only available in New Zealand with a prescription.

Rofecoxib was withdrawn in 2004 by pharmaceutical giant Merck over concerns about increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Health experts later cleared it for sale, but Merck didn't resume manufacture.