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Celecoxib: This New Painkiller Might Be a Bitter Pill for Some Patients

January 24, 1999 | 16,902 views

An eagerly awaited new painkiller, expected to have none of the common side effects of over-the-counter pain medications, may have one serious downside. The drug, from a class of medications known as "super aspirins" or COX-2 inhibitors, has already been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is expected to be available by prescription within the next few weeks. The drug is called celecoxib and will be manufactured by G.D. Searle under the trade name Celebrex.

But according to a recent report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the drug may increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and blood clotting disorders.

Researchers studied the effects of the drug on a beneficial protaglandin called prostacyclin. They found that the drug suppresses production of prostacyclin, which is needed to dilate blood vessels and inhibit clotting. Earlier studies had found that mice genetically engineered to be unable to use prostacyclin properly were prone to clotting disorders. Many older people who may want to take COX-2 inhibitors for conditions like arthritis could be at risk for developing heart and blood vessel problems from the drug.

A second drug company, Merck & Co., is expected to get FDA approval in the near future to market another COX-2 inhibitor called Vioxx. COX-2 inhibitors were eagerly anticipated because unlike aspirin and ibuprofen they do not block an enzyme known as COX-1, which protects the lining of the stomach. Studies show that long-term use of aspirin and ibuprofen are associated with thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths annually from stomach and intestinal problems.

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

You will see much in the media throughout the next few weeks about this new brand of drugs, COX-2 inhibitors. However, taking these new drugs might be a matter of exchanging a gastrointestinal risk from one painkiller to a cardiovascular risk for another. Though the cardiovascular risk may be much more significant.

I would strongly advise against using these drugs. I suspect there is a high likelihood that they will be pulled from the market when the increased cardiac deaths are recognized.

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