Salt in soluble drugs increases risk of heart attacks and strokes

Soluble versions of common medications such as aspirin may increase risk of cardiovascular problems. Pierre Guinoiseau

The salt found in common effervescent and soluble drugs may be exposing consumers to an increased risk of heart problems, according to a study published in the BMJ today.

The study found it’s possible to exceeded the recommended daily intake of salt of 2.4 grams just by consuming the maximum daily dose of some drugs.

Associate Professor in Pharmacology at Murdoch University, Ian Mullaney said salt is an essential ingredient in modern medicines.

“The drugs have properties that make them insoluble or don’t combine very well, and salt has been used since in the early days of medicine manufacture just to combine the ingredients of the medicine to make them soluble,” he said.

But excessive salt consumption is harmful to heart health.

Professor of preventative cardiology & internal medicine at Griffith University, Ian Hamilton-Craig said excessive salt intake could raise blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

While tablets that easily dissolve in water are a convenient option for many consumers their high salt content is a hidden drawback.

The study authors tracked over 1.2 million people for 13 years. They found people taking these medicines had a 16% increased risk of heart attack, stroke or vascular death than those taking the non-sodium versions of the same drugs.

People taking these high-salt medicines were also seven times more likely to develop high blood pressure, a condition affecting over 3.5 million Australians.

Mullaney pointed out that there were low-salt and high-salt varieties for common medications, so people concerned about their health had a choice.

“This is especially important for people with high blood pressure or heart failure, for whom low-salt varieties should be chosen,” Hamilton-Craig said.

The study authors have called for drug companies to list the salt content of medicines and for people taking high-salt medications to visit their doctor regularly.