More than two-thirds of the elevated heart risks associated with osteoarthritis, the most common arthritic form, are linked to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the most common drugs used to fight inflammation. That’s according to new research presented June 13 in Amsterdam at the 2018 Annual European Congress of Rheumatology conference.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study to evaluate the mediating
role of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use in the relationship between osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease in a large population‐based sample,” said study author Aslam Anis, of the University of British Columbia, in the EULAR release. “Our results indicate that osteoarthritis is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and suggest a substantial proportion of the increased risk is due to the use of NSAIDs. This is highly relevant because NSAIDs are some of the most commonly used drugs to manage pain in patients with osteoarthritis.”

Osteoarthritis patients had a 23 percent greater risk of cardiovascular disease, and their risk of congestive heart failure, ischemic heart disease, and stroke increased by 42, 17, and 14 percent respectively in the study, which examined 7,743 osteoarthritis patients and 23,229 controls, who didn’t have OA. When Anis and colleagues calculated NSAID impact on the increased risk, they found that the drugs accounted for 68 percent of the total cardiovascular disease risk. NSAIDs also were responsible for 45 percent of the congestive heart failure risk and more than 90 percent of the stroke and ischemic heart disease risk.