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 May 12, 2005
Vioxx Withdrawal Prompts Drop in Painkiller Use
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America's use of painkilling medications called cox-2 inhibitors plunged at the end of 2004, following the September withdrawal of Merck and Co.'s Vioxx due to heart-safety concerns, new research finds.

Prescriptions for cox-2 drugs, which included Vioxx and the still marketed Pfizer drugs Celebrex and Bextra, sank 43 percent in December from the prior year, the pharmaceutical consulting firm IMS Health concluded from new data. While these drugs have been marketed as more stomach-friendly than traditional painkillers, a number of recent studies point to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke among cox-2 users.

IMS said the number of cox-2 prescriptions fell from 4.5 million in September to 2.7 million in December, according to an Associated Press account of the study.

In the week after Vioxx was withdrawn in September, Celebrex and Bextra picked up most of the slack, according to separate data from Impact Rx, a New Jersey company that tracks prescribing patterns. But use of the remaining cox-2s fell from a total of about 25 percent of all painkillers prescribed to 8 percent by this month, the AP said.


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