Posted by Vishva News Reporter on October 1, 2004

Questions about Vioxx:
is yanked over heart risk & stroke:

Associated Press
Canadian Globe & Mail: Friday, October 1, 2004 - Page A13

It was nicknamed a "super Aspirin" when it hit the market five years ago, billed as an early blockbuster of the biotech era, a remarkably safe anti-inflammatory drug and painkiller bound to be a hit with aging baby boomers.

Merck & Co. Inc. first developed Vioxx as a new class of arthritis medication. But it quickly landed in medicine cabinets as a treatment for everything from muscle aches to menstrual cramps, with 3.4 million prescriptions filled in Canada last year, and 84 million people taking it around the world.

Those numbers now represent the scope of unease as Merck announced yesterday that it is yanking Vioxx off the market worldwide after discovering, in a new clinical trial, that the drug increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

"For reasons of patient safety, we felt the best course of action was to withdraw [Vioxx]," said Francois Bertrand, executive director of medical research at Merck Frosst Canada Inc.

The developments may raise questions about regulations that bring new drugs to market, further damage faith in the industry and cast doubt on whole classes of new-generation medications.

"It's kind of a reminder to go back to the basics," said Volodko Bakowsky, a rheumatologist at the QEII Health Sciences Centre in Halifax who had prescribed Vioxx, whose generic name is rofecoxib.

"This went from headlines of being a super Aspirin, to this [withdrawal]. The message people are going to get now is that this drug is a horrendous danger, when they thought it had the toxicity of water. The truth is probably somewhere in between."

Please click on the next line to learn about the questions you should ask your doctor if you are taking or have taken VIOXX.....

Questions about Vioxx:

  • If I've been taking Vioxx, do I face a higher risk of heart problems in the future?

    Answer: "The answer to that is almost certainly 'no.' The drug's effects disappear very quickly," so stopping it should reverse risk, according to Dr. Alastair Wood, professor of medicine and pharmacology, and associate dean of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
  • What about children? Some take it for juvenile arthritis.

    No safety problems have been seen in children, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but Vioxx is being withdrawn from the market for everybody.

    Is it safe to stop taking Vioxx suddenly or should people go off the drug slowly?

    Medical experts advise patients to stop taking Vioxx and consult their doctor about alternatives. Health Canada said patients should consult their doctors as to whether they should continue taking their remaining supply of the medication.
  • What made Vioxx so good for treating the pain of arthritis?

    Many pain relievers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, work against two enzymes, cox-1 and cox-2, which cause inflammation and pain. Cox-1 is found in the stomach, and drugs that attack it often cause upset stomachs and ulcers. Vioxx and other so-called cox-2 inhibitors attack just that enzyme, minimizing stomach side effects.
  • Are other cox-2 inhibitors safe?

    All drugs of this type can raise blood pressure, but only Vioxx has been linked to higher risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems, FDA officials say.

    Besides arthritis, what else is Vioxx used to treat?

    Other chronic pain conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, and short-term needs such as postoperative pain relief and menstrual cramp


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