Vioxx was removed from the market in 2004 because it was discovered to be responsible for an increased risk of heart attack.
Vioxx is a COX-2 ((Cyclooxygenase 2)) inhibiting drug. A similar drug, Bextra, was also removed from the market. Celebrex, however, is still available. Even more important to us today is that there are other common drugs that share the same action as the ones that were pulled. They are in the Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug category (NSAID) and include such well-know products as Indocin, Advil, Motrin, Naprosyn, Feldene, and Relafin.
In low doses, the drugs still on the market don’t seem to be linked to more heart attacks. In large amounts, over extended lengths of time, they can be directly responsible for some serious consequences. Its because they block certain pathways (prostaglandin) in our body that are involved in transmitting pain signals. Basically, all COX inhibitors work by blocking or interferring with normal hormone and enzyme activity. They relieve pain, not by taking away the source of the pain, but by tricking the pain centers into not relaying the pain impuses.
The COX-2 inhibiting drug is not smart enough to know that it should only inhibit the pain areas we want controlled. It works on Cox-2 throughout the body. It also blocks the clearance of an acid called, 20-HETE. This substance is normally made in our circulatory system and kidneys. It keeps our blood vessels toned, constricted. Excess 20-HETE generates free radical damage and causes platelets to stick together. And that can bring on a heart attack.
Not everyone experiences the heart damaging effects. It appears that a key to the build-up of 20-HETE is also associated with increased levels of sodium chloride (salt). Both excess salt and NSAIDs cause the body to make 20-HETE. All of the drugs listed above can be dangerous because they all have similar mechanisms of action. In high enough doses, over a long enough period of time, they can cause the body to make excess 20-HETE. People who use these drugs and consume too much salt have dramatically increased risk of heart attack.
What can you do to lower your risk of heart attack if you need a pain reliever, like an NSAID?
First, find ways to reduce your drug intake. If you must use any NSAID, use the lowest doses possible and do everything you can to dramatically curtail your use of salt.
Then, stop using the drugs as soon as you can.
Patient Information Sheet for Vioxx.
Patient Information Sheet for Celebrex.