The recall of rofecoxib (Vioxx) raises the question of whether the heart attack and stroke risks uncovered in recent research are unique to this drug or common to other COX-2 inhibitors, the Oct. 9 Lancet declares in an editorial. "The short history of COX-2 inhibitors has been plagued by safety concerns," according to the journal.
Celecoxib (Celebrex) and valdecoxib (Bextra) are the other COX-2 inhibitors widely marketed for pain and other arthritis symptoms. Such drugs suppress the COX-2 (cyclo-oxygenase-2) enzyme, a known inflammatory agent. The drugs quell inflammation and pain as effectively as aspirin or ibuprofen do, but with less irritation to the stomach.
In light of a Food and Drug Administration health advisory issued on Sept. 30, Merck & Co. of Whitehouse Station, N.J., took rofecoxib off the market.