More harm than good. That's the bottom line on Thursday from Merck Pharmaceuticals on its popular arthritis drug Vioxx. Merck is voluntarily halting the sale of that pain medication, meaning an estimated 2 million patients who rely on Vioxx are advised to stop taking the drug and find something else for their pain.
The problem? Merck studies are finding that patients on the drug for more than 18 months are showing a higher incidence of heart trouble than others not using the drug.
"While acknowledging that many patients have benefited, we believe voluntary withdrawal is in the best interest of patients," says Dr. Peter S. Kim, President of Merck Research Labs.
"It's not just this study in isolation. It builds upon other evidence and an overwhelming amount of data that Vioxx is associated with heart attack risk," says Dr. Deepak Bhatt, cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic.
You remember, last month we told you about an FDA study that found patients taking Vioxx had a 50% greater risk of cardiovascular trouble than patients taking Celebrex or Bextra, similar drugs that are believed to be safe. Ironically, Merck told the world on Thursday to stop taking Vioxx before sending instructions to the nation's pharmacists.
Several pharmacists in Lubbock said they're getting swamped with calls, but they're in the dark about what to do with any pills you have at home. Instead of returning Vioxx to your neighborhood pharmacy, Merck says refunds will be given by mail to those who send any remaining Vioxx pills to their office in Indianapolis.
Merck has provided mailing instructions on a toll free hotline. Just call 1-888-36-VIOXX. Also be sure to talk to your doctor about a safer alternative.
For more information, you can ( click here ) or call 1-888-36-VIOXX which is 1-888-368-4699.