This site is intended for health professionals only

Trial sparks fears over pain drugs

There are further fears about the safety of some painkilling arthritis drugs after new evidence emerged of life-threatening risks associated with one of them.

A worldwide study involving 2,000 patients found rofecoxib, sold as Vioxx, "substantially" increases the chances of dying or suffering a non-fatal stroke or heart attack in patients even a year after stopping taking it.

The drug was withdrawn in 2004 by manufacturers Merck & Co after a study into whether it could reduce the risk of bowel polyps was axed when it showed the drug doubled the risk of heart attacks.

Merck has funded new research, published in an online edition of The Lancet, to follow up that study.

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

It found that the risk of death or non-fatal heart attacks or strokes was 79% higher in the Vioxx group than the placebo group.

Vioxx is a selective cox-2 inhibitor drug, which blocks the activity of a particular enzyme linked to inflammation and there are now fears over all these medicines.

Judy O'Sullivan, cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "As the drug was withdrawn from the market in 2004 it is unlikely this risk will affect any UK patients now.

"Those who need to be regular long term users of these types of drugs should discuss with their doctors the benefits of getting some relief from chronic pain versus the increased risk of heart and circulatory disease."

Copyright © PA Business 2008