Saturday, September 20, 2008

Vioxx shows miracle drugs not always what they seem

From the Vancouver Sun:
If medications had personalities, Vioxx would be that macho guy in a Hummer who just took your parking space (and the one next to it), who then gets out, smiling and talking on his cellphone.

Touted as a "super aspirin," Vioxx was, for a time, the No. 1 pain medication in the world, backed by aggressive marketing to physicians and the public.

How it got to be "the single greatest drug safety catastrophe in the history of the world," in the words of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration official, is a fascinating story that's about to be told for the first time in a new book. Its author, Tom Nesi, is a medical industry insider, having been director of public affairs of the Squibb Corp., not far from the New Jersey headquarters of Merck & Co. Inc.

Merck's fortunes rose and fell on its superstar Vioxx, which had reached $2.5 billion in annual sales before being voluntarily withdrawn from the worldwide market on Sept. 30, 2004. That day, Dr. Peter Kim, then president of Merck Research Laboratories, announced that data from clinical trials "suggested an increased risk of confirmed cardiovascular events beginning after 18 months of continuous therapy." ...more

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