A massive study is renewing concerns over the risk of COX-2 inhibitor pain medications. Popularly known by brand names. such as Celebrex and Lodine, the drugs are being associated with an increase risk of death following a stroke.

It is important to note that the study did not find a cause and effect relationship between the drugs and death in people suffering from strokes. The large study just found an association between the drugs and mortality risk.

That’s not to say the class of medication hasn’t been linked to strokes in the past. In 2004, Merck had to pull the popular drug Vioxx due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. In 2005, the FDA had Pfizer voluntarily pulled the drug, Bextra, over the same concerns.

The new study, conducted in Denmark, followed 100,000 patients admitted for strokes between the years 2004 and 2012. Researchers were looking to how painkillers affected recovery time after the initial stroke. Patients, suffering from an ischemic stroke and on Celebrex, had a mortality risk increase of 19 percent during the first month.

“Much of this result came from new users of the drugs, who were 42 percent more likely to die from stroke than those who were not taking the drugs,” said lead researcher Dr. Morten Schmidt, the cardiovascular research coordinator at Aarhus University Hospital.

Ischemic strokes are the most common, and are caused by a blood clot in the brain. The increase in death was even more pronounced in patients taking older COX-2 inhibitors. Patients taking Lodine (etodolac) saw a 53 percent increase in dying from the stroke in the first month.

“There are several cardiovascular risks to consider when prescribing NSAIDs, in particular COX-2 inhibitors. Efforts should be made to ensure people with a higher risk of stroke are not prescribed these medications when other options are available,” Schmidt said.

Out of the 100,000 participants, 11 percent were using painkillers at the time of admission, and 8 percent were formerly on the type of medications.

The complete study is published in this month’s Neurology. Be sure to check it out.

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