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Vioxx, Celebrex, Other Painkillers Up Risks for Heart Failure, Heart Attack Patients

Nov 12, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Vioxx, Celebrex, ibuprofen and other NSAID painkillers increase the chances that heart attack and heart failure patients will experience a second heart attack or death, a new study says.  According to Danish researchers, the risk of a second heart attack or death actually doubled within the first 90 days of starting Vioxx or Celebrex.  Other painkillers, like ibuprofen, increased the risk between 2.1 and 1.3 times.

The study was presented this week at the American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans.  At least one of the researchers recommended that physicians now avoid these types of painkillers, or use low doses, in patients with a history of heart attack or heart failure.

For their study, researchers at the University of Copenhagen  analyzed the records of 58,432 patients who had a previous heart attack and 107,092 with heart failure in Denmark. Of those, 36 percent of the heart attack patients and 34 percent of the heart failure patients said they took at least one painkiller after they were discharged from the hospital.

Patients who had suffered a heart attack and were taking the painkiller Vioxx had 2.7 times the risk of having another heart attack or dying compared with patients not taking painkillers. Heart attack patients taking Celebrex had double the risk, while those with heart failure taking Celebrex had 2.3 times the risk. Heart attack patients taking diclofenac had 1.9 times the risk, while those taking ibuprofen had 1.3 times the risk, according to the study.

NSAIDs  are the most prescribed medications for treating conditions such as arthritis. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) now requires all NSAIDs to bear a black box warning regarding heart attack and stroke risks.  The warnings were added to the drugs after Vioxx was recalled in 2004.

The FDA ordered Vioxx off the market in 2004 after studies showed that people who took the drug had a higher risk for heart attack. The recall came after an analysis of patients using Vioxx linked the defective drug to more than 27,000 heart attacks or sudden cardiac deaths in the U.S. from 1999 through 2003. Since then, Vioxx the subject of thousands of drug injury law suits.


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