Conference Coverage

VIDEO: Prescription-strength ibuprofen worsens blood pressure more than other NSAIDs



– Prescription-strength ibuprofen has a bigger adverse effect on blood pressure than celecoxib or naproxen, a finding that suggests a likely mechanism for the worse cardiovascular event rate documented in ibuprofen-treated arthritis patients in the PRECISION trial, Frank Ruschitzka, MD, said at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology.

“Prescription-strength ibuprofen is under pressure – it has a high incidence of new-onset hypertension, particularly when compared to the more selective COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib. Before we did this study, many would have said it’s the other way around,” observed Dr. Ruschitzka, professor of cardiology at the University of Zurich.

He presented the results of PRECISION-ABPM (Prospective Randomized Evaluation of Celecoxib Integrated Safety Versus Ibuprofen or Naproxen Ambulatory Blood Pressure Measurement).

“These results will have impact on your daily practice when you go home,” the cardiologist promised.

PRECISION-ABPM was a prespecified double-blind, randomized, 60-center substudy of the published PRECISION trial, which included 24,081 U.S. patients who needed daily NSAIDs for arthritis and were also at increased cardiovascular risk. They were randomized to the COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib at 100-200 mg b.i.d. or the nonselective NSAIDs ibuprofen at 600-800 mg three times a day or naproxen at 375-500 mg twice daily. Participants also received a proton pump inhibitor to protect against NSAID-related GI bleeding. In the on-treatment analysis, the ibuprofen group was significantly more likely to experience cardiovascular and all-cause mortality and renal events than were those on celecoxib (N Engl J Med. 2016 Dec 29;375[26]:2519-29).

The PRECISION-ABPM substudy included 444 arthritis patients, 92% of whom had osteoarthritis. During the 4-month study, investigators amassed roughly 60,000 automated blood pressure measurements across the three study arms.

The primary outcome was change from baseline in mean 24-hour systolic blood pressure (SBP). It increased by 3.7 mm Hg in the ibuprofen group and declined by 0.3 mm Hg in the celecoxib group, while the naproxen group occupied the middle ground with a 1.6-mm Hg increase.

The nearly 4-mm Hg increase in mean 24-hour SBP at 4 months in the ibuprofen group is of sufficient magnitude to be clinically important, Dr. Ruschitzka noted. He noted that fully 23.2% of ibuprofen-treated patients who had normal baseline blood pressure developed hypertension as defined by a mean 24-hour SBP of at least 130 and/or a diastolic blood pressure of at least 80 mm Hg. In contrast, incident hypertension occurred in only 10.3% of the celecoxib group and 19% of naproxen-treated patients. Thus, the likelihood of developing hypertension was 61% less with celecoxib than ibuprofen and 51% less with celecoxib than naproxen.

Not treating chronic arthritic pain to avoid the cardiovascular risk of NSAIDs is not a legitimate option.

“Pain is a cardiovascular risk factor,” Dr. Ruschitzka emphasized. “It’s unethical not to treat it. If you don’t treat pain, the patient’s blood pressure goes up, heart rate goes up, and you’re driving patients into inactivity.”

Although he’s convinced there’s no such thing as a safe NSAID from a cardiovascular risk standpoint, the PRECISION and PRECISION-ABPM data show celecoxib is less unsafe than ibuprofen. And as for the oft-heard statement that naproxen is the safest NSAID for the heart, Dr. Ruschitzka snorted, “What an urban legend.”

Discussant Scott Solomon, MD, opined that, while PRECISION-ABPM doesn’t support the notion that conventional NSAIDs such as naproxen or ibuprofen are any safer than celecoxib, it would be wrong to conclude from the study that celecoxib doesn’t affect blood pressure and is safer than the others from a cardiovascular standpoint. That’s because the three study drugs weren’t compared in an equipotent way. Because of safety concerns, the Food and Drug Administration required that the daily dose of celecoxib be capped at the low end of the therapeutic range, while no such constraints were placed on the two nonselective NSAIDS.

“Compared to placebo, all NSAIDs likely raise blood pressure, especially in patients prone to hypertension, those with chronic kidney disease, the elderly – and this is exactly the type of patients who require NSAIDs for arthritis. Whichever NSAID is chosen, clinicians should be aware of this effect and treat hypertension according to guidelines,” said Dr. Solomon, director of noninvasive cardiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Solomon has been a key figure in the COX-2 inhibitor controversy of the last decade. He was lead author of a 2005 review of data from clinical trials of COX-2 inhibitors for colorectal adenoma prevention, which concluded that the drugs had a cardiovascular safety issue in that setting (N Engl J Med. 2005 Mar 17;352[11]:1071-80).

“Our analysis of celecoxib concluded that a dose-dependent increase in cardiovascular events was there, was real, but notably occurred at doses which were substantially higher than what we typically use for patients with arthritis,” he said.

That report triggered a fevered reaction.

“Amid an enormous amount of hype, hyperbole, and hysteria, the safety of these agents was thrown into question, leading to the withdrawal of all but one of them from the market and a black-box warning around the one remaining agent, celecoxib,” he recalled.

Dr. Ruschitzka discussed his findings in a video interview.

PRECISION-ABPM was sponsored by Pfizer. Dr. Ruschitzka and Dr. Solomon reported having no financial conflicts of interest regarding their presentations.

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