Stay safe by staying out of the vicious drug cycle

Stay safe by staying out of the vicious drug cycle

This is a feeding frenzy-and I love it. Last October, Merck & Co. withdrew Vioxx, its COX-2 arthritis drug, from the market after a study found it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke. Since then, the company has put out at least four press releases defending the safety of other COX-2 inhibitors. In case you’re curious, it wasn’t doctors who wrote these press releases. No, you are being encouraged to continue taking a dangerous drug by marketers. This is science-by-press-release-and it stinks.

But despite all the scrambling to protect this blockbuster class of drugs, it has suddenly occurred to doctors, even in the ivory towers, that if one COX-2 drug causes heart problems then maybe they all do. Now some of the top dogs in the medical hierarchy are telling doctors to pass on Bextra, another COX-2 suspect. Two studies suggest that post-surgical bypass patients have an increase in heart problems by a factor of three if they are taking Bextra.

It’s interesting to note that Pfizer’s Bextra is now recognized as a dangerous drug and Merck’s Vioxx is off the market for the same reason, but Pfizer’s other COX-2 drug, Celebrex is still being sold to trusting patients all over the world.

Need more convincing that Big Pharma is not your friend and is run by irresponsible lunatics? The arrogant president of Pfizer, Chief Executive Hank McKinnell, defended the COX-2 drugs and said in a television interview that, “there should not be a rush to judgment because of the findings.” It would appear that the “rush to judgment” started with the introduction of these cardio-toxic drugs in the first place.

How Big Pharma intends to capitalize on its own mistakes

Even though the experts are slowly admitting that COX-2s are dangerous, they just can’t seem to let go entirely, and have enlisted the media to keep people on the bandwagon as long as possible. “Older cheaper painkillers such as aspirin are as effective as the COX-2s, but can upset some stomachs,” Reuters reports.

But since the pharmaceutical companies know that it’s only a matter of time before people opt for the less dangerous-not to mention cheaper-of the two, they figured out a way to capitalize on that too. The answer the experts suggest for the stomach-irritating side effects of aspirin is, of course, to add another drug.

Jonathan Kay, associate clinical professor at Harvard Medical School and a rheumatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, defends this stance and offers what he thinks is sound advice for those who “need” to take aspirin, but are worried about their stomachs. He said that gastrointestinal problems can be avoided “by prescribing a separate medication to prevent stomach upset.”

You don’t have to add another drug, Jonathan, you just tell the patient to eat something when they take their meds (if they insist on taking them in the first place, which isn’t really necessary thanks to all the safe, natural pain relieving alternatives available, like willow bark and fish oil). Wouldn’t that be safer than adding another cotton-picking DRUG?

I’m joining Nancy Reagan: “Just say no to drugs”-and COX too!


“Doctors Say Avoid Pfizer’s Bextra-Medical Journal,” Reuters Health News, 12/17/04, Kim Dixon

“Cardiovascular Toxicity of Valdecoxib,” NEJM 2004; 351(26): 2,767