There appears to be more bad news for Merck & Co. after a Canadian Medical Association Journal said the drug may raise the risk of heart attack for patients who took Vioxx for less than 2 weeks. Investigative journalist Evelyn Pringle reports that the study published online this month, found that more than 25% of 239 patients who had heart attacks did so in less than 13 days of being on the drug.

New reports indicate that patients that took the drug may have a higher risk of death for years after taking the drug. A Reuters reports quotes Curt Furberg, a member of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee, It may be that Vioxx is causing permanent damage to the cardiovascular system, accelerating atherosclerosis or a sustained increase in blood pressure.”

Furberg, a professor of public health at Wake Forest University, said his stroke concerns stem from a new 107-page report on patients who were followed for a year after they stopped taking Vioxx.

The dangers caused by Vioxx may begin early and may last long after use is stopped. Joe Neel of NPR says the risk of heart attacks, strokes and serious peripheral vascular disorders began to increase soon after people started taking 25 mg of Vioxx each day. It is unclear whether the 50mg dose was more or less dangerous than the 25mg dose.

Neel adds that the risk is difficult to determine because Merck & Co. has not released all of the data that were collected in the study, known by its acronym APPROVe (Adenomatous Polyp PRevention on Vioxx).

Merck disputes the new claims and disagrees with the interpretation. The company says that their APPROVe data show that cardiovascular problems occurred in patients who took Vioxx longer than 18 months.

Neel says there are several conditions that have been associated with Vioxx use. These problems include serious strokes, so-called “mini-strokes” (also known as transient ischemic attacks), heart attacks, angina, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, phlebitis and other serious blockages of veins.

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