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New Vioxx study sparks fears over heart death risk

14 October 2008

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New evidence of life-threatening risks associated with a painkilling arthritis drug have sparked fears about the safety of several others.

Rofecoxib, sold under brand name Vioxx, “substantially” increases the chances of dying or suffering a non-fatal stroke or heart attack even a year after stopping treatment, a worldwide study has found.

The drug was withdrawn from the world market by manufacturers Merck & Co in 2004 after research showed it doubled the risk of heart attacks.

The new research, funded by the company and published in an online edition of The Lancet, followed up the Adenomatous Polyp Prevention On Vioxx (APPROVe) study.

Some 2,587 patients took part to see if Vioxx could reduce the risk of bowel polyps but the trial was stopped after the risk of cardiovascular problems was uncovered.

The new study looked at about 2,000 of these patients for a year after they stopped taking the drug.

The risk of death or non-fatal heart attacks or strokes was 79% higher in the group given Vioxx in the APPROVe study than the placebo group, who were given no drugs. Their relative risk of death was 31% higher.

The Vioxx fears have sparked concerns about all selective cox-2 inhibitor drugs.

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