Painkillers may cause heart problems: FDA promises to act

There were preliminary indications of &to=http://' target=_blank>heart problems with the painkiller Vioxx before it was withdrawn, but it was difficult to sort through conflicting data, a health official said Wednesday at the opening of hearings on the risks of popular painkillers.

"We were not asleep at the wheel, we were actually engaged in reviewing a lot of data," Dr. Lourdes Villalba told a joint meeting of the &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Food and Drug Administration's arthritis advisory committee and its drug safety and risk management advisory committee, which are looking into Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra.

Vioxx was pulled from the market Sept. 30 by manufacturer Merck & Co., after a long-term study showed a higher rate of strokes and heart problems in people using the drug, says ABC News.

"The agency will act rapidly in the next several weeks," said Dr. Steven Galson, acting director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, as the hearings got underway. The FDA is not bound to follow the recommendations of its advisory panels, but it usually does.

The future of cox-2 inhibitors is an issue that has attracted an "unprecedented level of international attention," Galson acknowledged.

"Millions of people around the world are taking the drugs. We must keep the interests of patients front and center," he added. "We are anxious to hear all points of view", informs Forbes.

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