Celebrex appears to carry less heart risk in patients than Merck's
Vioxx, according to new research published in the medical journal
Annals of Internal Medicine.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that Vioxx was
2.72 times as likely to be associated with a nonfatal first heart attack than Celebrex -- contradicting the claims of some scientists that all COX-2 medicines may carry similar dangers.
"What that implies is that all COX-2 inhibitors may not be the same,"
Stephen Kimmel, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology and lead author of the study, told the Associated Press.
However, University of Pennsylvania cardiologist and pharmacologist, Garret Fitzgerald, questioned whether the study proved anything new.
"It's not a clean bill of health for Celebrex," Fitzgerald said in an
Associated Press report. "It's well recognized that these types of studies are not conclusive."
To find proof, Fitzgerald said, researchers would have to conduct a
random study involving people who took Vioxx, people who took
Celebrex, and people who took placebo -- all before they had heart
Instead, researchers studied 1,718 patients in the Philadelphia area who had heart attacks, and who were treated at one of 36 hospitals, and a comparison group of 6,800 people in the region.
The study was co-funded by Pfizer, Merck and the federal government. Vioxx was withdrawn from the market on Sept. 30 after a study revealed the risk of heart attacks and stroke was doubled when the drug was taken for more than 18 months.
According to data from IMS Health, in October, sales of Celebrex
topped $260 million -- 63.5 percent of the market for COX-2 inhibitors.