Pulling the painkillers Vioxx and Bextra off the market to spare patients’ hearts may have ended up harming their stomachs, a new study suggests.
Cox-2 inhibitors such as Vioxx, Bextra and Celebrex are a subset of a larger group of painkillers called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) relieve pain, but they also raise risks for GI tract complications, including bleeding.
Cox-2 inhibitors were heralded as a safer alternative to other NSAIDs precisely because they offered users a much lower risk of these side effects.
However, beginning in late 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called for the withdrawal of Vioxx and then Bextra, after studies suggested higher rates of serious cardiac events in long-time users. Only Celebrex remains on the market.