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The pain-killing arthritis drug rofecoxib has been found to substantially increase the risk of dying from a stroke or heart attack up to a year after treatment is discontinued.
Sold under the brand name Vioxx, the selective cox-2 inhibitor was withdrawn from the world market in 2004 by manufacturers Merck & Co after the risks were revealed.
New findings have now renewed concerns about all cox-2 medicines, including Celebrex, which is still licensed and used to treat arthritic pain. Doctors are being advised to take care when prescribing the drug.
Around 8.5 million people in the UK suffer from osteoarthritis, caused by wear and tear of the joints. Another 400,000 have rheumatoid arthritis, which is an auto-immune disease.
A spokeswoman for the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which licences medical treatments, said: “The ideal anti-inflammatory prescribing choice will vary from patient to patient, depending on individual risk factors, therapeutic response and patient preference. Prescribers need to weigh up all the risks.
“Patients should use the lowest effective dose, and the shortest duration of therapy necessary to control symptoms. Adherence to these principles should ensure that the risks are minimised, and for the vast majority of patients the overall risks are outweighed by the benefits of anti-inflammatory treatment.”
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