Older people suffering from arthritis face a significantly higher risk of heart attacks, bone fractures and even death if they take narcotic-based medications, such as propoxyphene found in the recently banned drugs Darvon and Darvocet, as compared to other pain relievers, a new study has found.

Published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, the study is the first large-scale examination of the comparative risks for the elderly taking differing classes of painkillers.

“Doctors should not assume that opioids are a safer alternative,” to other painkillers, said Daniel H. Solomon, the study’s researcher, told the New York Times. “They seem to carry profound risks to cardiovascular system as well as increased risk fractures and appear to be associated with increased risk of death.”

The study, conducted by researchers at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston and underwritten by the federal Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, reviewed the health records of thousands of Medicare recipients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania between 1996 and 2005.

The patients were divided into three groups: those who received narcotic-based painkillers; those who took a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like Advil or Aleve; and those who took a class of pain drugs called coxibs, which include Celebrex and Vioxx, which are no longer on the market.

Researchers said that because the study was based on records, they could not identify all factors that might have contributed to a patient’s problems. Nonetheless, they found that the overall risk of death was twice as high for patients taking a narcotic painkiller when compared to those taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug.

And patients in the narcotic group were four times more likely to experience a compound bone fracture, apparently as a result of a fall, and they were twice as likely to have a heart attack. The cardiovascular risks posed by narcotics were the same as for drugs like Celebrex and Vioxx, which have come under scrutiny for that hazard.

In November, the Food and Drug Administration pulled the narcotic painkiller, propoxyphene, from the shelves citing its heart risks. The drug was used in both Darvon and Darvocet.

Attorneys at Ross Feller Casey, LLP has extensive experience in personal injury cases stemming from pharmaceutical negligence.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries as a result of taking Darvon or Darvocet, Ross Feller Casey can help.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.