One of the nation’s biggest HMO’s may be reconsidering it’s endorsement of the popular prescription medication, Vioxx, after a new study found some potentially disturbing data.

Results from an FDA funded study are showing a potential link between the arthritis drug, Vioxx and heart attacks and deaths in its users.

The administration looked at the records of more than a million Kaiser Permanente patients. They discovered that Vioxx users had a 50 percent greater chance of problems than people using a competing Cox-2 inhibitor, like Celebrex. The news raises a red flag for Kaiser decision-makers.

“So as with any new study that comes out, Kaiser Permanente will review it’s use of Vioxx along with the physicians to come to a determination whether Vioxx will be continued to be used by our patients or not,” said Shawn Briere who is a pharmacist with Kaiser Permanente.

Kaiser officials say they want to spend several weeks looking at more data, before deciding whether to discontinue writing prescriptions for Vioxx.

However, the theory that Cox-2 inhibitors cause heart problems is not entirely unfounded.

Doctor Briere says there are studies and trials addressing this same subject dating back to the late 1990’s.

Still, Vioxx’s maker, Merck has gone on the record, backing it’s drug’s safety and strongly disagreeing with the FDA’s recent findings.

“Any drug company that comes across this type of thing will deny the allegations, but it’s really further research that needs to be done to say if this was by chance or if there really is a risk of cardiovascular events associated with this medication,” said Doctor Briere.

So in the meantime, what should you do?

Doctor Briere says you should keep taking your medications until you receive further word.

“By no means should anybody stop taking these medications. There’s a tremendous benefit of these medications to these patients,” explained Doctor Briere.

Benefits that outweigh the risks, at least for now.

Vioxx is also in the same class of drugs as Advil and Aleve. The only difference is that it generally causes less gastro-intestinal bleeding with long term use.

Kaiser tells us that if a decision “is” made to stop prescribing Vioxx, patients will be switched to a different arthritis medication and receive a consult with the pharmacist, when they go in for their next refill.



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