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Vioxx is a prescription pain medication that was once a popular choice for the treatment of arthritis, menstrual discomfort. When the drug was approved in 1999, it was marketed as a strong painkiller that is not habit-forming and will not cause gastrointestinal side-effects. More than 80 million people were prescribed the drug before it was withdrawn from the market in 2004.

Drug manufacturer Merck recalled the drug after a number of studies found an increased risk of heart attack and stroke when high doses of Vioxx were used. Later studies linked other COX-2 inhibitors—or coxibs—to heart attack risks. Some COX-2 inhibitors, like Vioxx, were taken off the market. Others, like Celebrex, are still prescribed.

Patients who suffered heart attacks after taking Vioxx and other COX-2 inhibitors have filed pharmaceutical class action lawsuits against Merck and other drug manufacturers. And, many doctors have chosen to prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) instead.

A new study has found that many common NSAID painkillers such as ibuprofen and diclofenac may be just as dangerous as the COX-2 inhibitors.

After looking at the medical records of more than 300,000 patients who were prescribed high doses of NSAIDs, researchers at Britain's Oxford University have found that patients who take high doses of NSAID painkillers—such as 150 mg of diclofenac or 2400 mg of ibuprofen a day—over long periods of time have an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from a cardiovascular event. However, high doses of naproxen, another NSAID, did not appear to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Worried about the Advil you take? Don’t be. Lead researcher Colin Baigent explained that the risks are mostly relevant to patients who take large doses of medication for chronic pain caused by conditions such as arthritis. For these patients the benefits and risked associated with NSAIDs are similar to the benefits and risks associated with COX-2 inhibitors. If you are taking ibuprofren or diclofenac for chronic pain, talk to your doctor about the associated risks.

The study was published in The Lancet medical journal.

Patients who suffer a heart attack or stroke while taking Celebrex or another medication may be eligible for compensation from the drug company. To learn about Wisconsin pharmaceutical class action lawsuits, contact the Appleton drug injury attorneys at Hupy and Abraham to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. To make an appointment, call (800) 800-5678 .

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham
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