Chicago — The popular pain relievers ibuprofen and acetaminophen, contained in scores of over-the-counter remedies, may increase the risk of high blood pressure, a study in women suggests.
Skeptics say the link is flimsy and needs confirmation in better-designed studies, and even the Harvard researchers who conducted the study do not recommend that people stop taking the medications. But the authors add that their findings are plausible given what's known about how the drugs affect the body.
The study, in today's Archives of Internal Medicine, involved 80,020 women aged 31 to 50 who participated in a two-year study and had not been diagnosed with high blood pressure at the outset.
During those two years, 1,650 participants developed high blood pressure. Women who reported taking acetaminophen 22 days a month or more were twice as likely to develop hypertension as women who did not use the drug. Those who used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines that often mostly ibuprofen were 86 percent more likely to develop hypertension than nonusers.
While the relative risks sound high, the results suggest that the vast majority of women taking the medications will not develop high blood pressure, said Dr. William Elliott, an internal medicine and pharmacology specialist at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago.
Elliott, who was not involved in the research, also noted the study lacks information on doses participants used, which would be needed to show a true cause and effect.