A study of New Zealand patients on two previously common arthritis drugs has found a similar risk of heart attacks and strokes regardless of the brand.
One of the drugs, Vioxx, was withdrawn late last year because of the cardiovascular risk but the other drug, Celebrex, is still sold.
The national medicines monitoring unit has analysed follow up information from 11,000 patients prescribed these drugs in 2001. Their findings are published in an international journal called Drug Safety.
Unit head Mira Harrison-Woolrych says the results show Celebrex is just as risky as Vioxx, despite quite a wide margin of error.
Health officials recently concluded the risks outweigh the benefits for all brands of these drugs and a decision on their future is due this month.
The pharmaceutical company Pfizer is challenging the study, saying four international studies found no increased cardiovascular risks from Celebrex.
“The FDA in the United States recently published a ‘real life’ observational study designed to assess the cardiovascular risk of all NSAIDS (including Celebrex and Vioxx) and found there was no increased risk associated with Celebrex, whereas there was a significantly increased risk associated with Vioxx use,” says Pfizer Australia and New Zealand Medical Director, Bill Ketelbey.
It says the data in the New Zealand study lacks statistical power to detect differences between the medicines.