ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT VIOXX
Tuesday, August 31, 2004; Page HE02
Source: The Washington Post, DC
ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT VIOXX . . . but not for the reasons Merck & Co. recommends. Last week a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study found a link with heart attacks, and several large health insurers said they may restrict payments for the arthritis drug.
Some previous studies, but not all, have found a similar link between Vioxx and heart risk. Another study, to be released this week by insurer Aetna Inc., is expected to come to similar conclusions.
The FDA and Aetna reviews follow a 2001 article that found the entire class of painkillers known as COX-2 inhibitors, which include Vioxx and Pfizer's Celebrex, might cause blood clots that trigger heart attack and stroke. Some subsequent studies, including the current ones, show Vioxx carries greater heart risk than other drugs in its class.
The COX-2 drugs are designed to fight inflammation and pain while reducing the risk of ulcers caused by over-the-counter pain medication, such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
Merck said it "strongly disagrees" with the FDA's conclusions, noting that the research was retrospective. Such studies are considered less reliable than ones in which participants are enrolled ahead of time, given either the drug in question or a placebo, and then followed closely.