Aspirin & Ibuprofen: Like Oil & Water

For years, we've heard that taking aspirin will help reduce the risk of having a heart attack. Now, a new study shows taking ibuprofen with aspirin may block aspirin's benefits. Because aspirin and ibuprofen are available over the counter at any drugstore, most people think they're safe, but researchers at the University of Pennsylvania suggest that might not be the case.

For many people, an aspirin a day is common. They take it because it thins the blood and helps prevent clots that cause heart attacks, but many people who take aspirin also take ibuprofen for aches and pains. Dr. Garret Fitzgerald at the University of Pennsylvania says, "Ibuprofen undermines the mechanism by which aspirin protects the heart against heart attack and stroke." Ibuprofen interacts with the same enzyme in the body that aspirin does, wiping out aspirin's effects to be a blood thinner and prevent clots.

Results from the study show that if ibuprofen is taken two hours before aspirin, it decreases aspirin's ability to thin blood by 98 percent. If it's taken two hours after, the aspirin was 90 percent less effective. But the study also found that other pain relievers, like Tylenol, which is an acetaminophen is okay to take. Tylenol has no affect on aspirin benefits.

Even though more research is needed on the study, people who are taking both ibuprofen and aspirin should talk to their doctors about other options. Dr. Fitzgerald says, "People assume they're getting heart protection from low dose aspirin, and what we're showing is that it may undermine that heart protection." The study was small, only 30 people. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health and aspirin maker Bayer.

You can find out more about the study at www.nejm.org. For more on heart disease, log onto the American Heart Association at www.americanheart.org.