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Fresh Warning Issued For Painkillers

Feb 22, 2005 | TVNZ, New Zealand

Health officials have signalled that a popular group of painkillers may be taken off the market because of the increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

After reviewing the cardiovascular safety of the Cox-2 inhibitors, Celebrex, Arcoxia, Mobic, Bextra and Dynastat, Ministry of Health officials have concluded the risk of heart attack and stroke outweighs the benefits of the drugs.

People who are at high risk of "cardiovascular events" should see their doctor and switch to a different medication, the ministry says.

Ministry spokesman Dr Stewart Jessamine says those most at risk are people with a history of heart attack or stroke; a strong family history of heart disease; a history of diabetes; smoking; hypertension or who are on treatment for high cholesterol.

This latest warning is a result of a review by the ministry's medicines regulator, Medsafe, into the safety of Cox-2 medicines. Last October, a worldwide recall of the drug Vioxx was issued after international studies found it was associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Since October, Medsafe has looked at data on the safety of Cox-2 drugs and concluded that their safety can't be guaranteed. Similar reviews by health experts in Australia, Europe and the US reached the same conclusion.

"There is still not enough information to quantify the risk associated with each of these medicines, or to determine which patients are at increased risk or whether aspects of treatment such as dose or duration of use affect the degree of risk," Jessamine says.

Cox-2 drugs are a relatively new type of anti-inflammatory medicine used to relieve pain, swelling and inflammation. These drugs also cause fewer stomach problems.

A final decision on the drugs will be made after March 15, when a medicines advisory committee will meet to consider the officials' findings, any new data, and submissions from the drug companies, doctors and patients.

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