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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to improve the warning labels featured on non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – NSAIDs – so they reflect that the drugs increase the risk of for heart attack or stroke.

In 2005, the FDA added boxed warning labels about cardiovascular risk to all prescription NSAIDs. However, a new comprehensive review found that the risk for heart attack or stroke can happen even after using NSAIDs for a short term, like a few weeks – an earlier estimate than previously stated.

This new safety information prompted the update on the drugs commonly used to treat toothaches, back pain, strains or sprains, menstrual cramps and headaches, according to an agency announcement.

Patients who take over-the-counter or prescription NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac and celecoxib, should seek immediate medical attention if they experience chest pain, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, weakness in one part or side of their body or slurred speech.

“Be careful not to take more than one product that contains an NSAID at a time,” Dr. Karen Mahoney, deputy director of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products, said in the consumer update.

Read the Drug Facts label for additional information on the proper way to take NSAIDs, she adds. If you already have high blood pressure or heart disease, speak to a health care provider before using NSAIDs.

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