Pain Reliever Vioxx Taken Off Shelves

Noon yesterday, Merck & Co. decided to pull Vioxx frompharmacy shelves as a result of new data from a three-year studythat revealed an increase in heart attacks and other cardiovascularcomplications in patients who have been taking the pain relieverfor more than 18 months.


In August the U.S. Food and DrugAdministration (FDA), released a study showing that patients takingrecommended daily doses of Vioxx faced a three times greater riskof heart attack and sudden cardiac death as patients who are notpainkillers.


According to MSNBC, sudden cardiac death, anabrupt loss of heart function not considered a heart attack, is aleading cause of death in the United States.


“Although the risk that an individual patientwould have a heart attack or stroke related to Vioxx is very small,the study that was halted suggests that, overall, patients takingthe drug chronically face twice the risk of a heart attack comparedto patients receiving a placebo,” said Dr. Lest M. Crawford, actingFDA Commissioner, in support of Merck’s decision.


The FDA encourages patients who have beenprescribed Vioxx to contact their doctors about an alternativesolution.  Merck has advised doctors to discontinueprescribing the painkiller to patients and the company is willingto reimburse patients for prescriptions they have alreadyfilled.


Vioxx is one of Merck’s most important drugs,with $2.5 billion in sales in 2003.  However, sales dipped 18percent in the second quarter of this year to $653 million, partlydue to increasing concerns about the drug’s safety.