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Call for withdraw of arthritis treatment drug after new fears

1 February, 2005

Sinn Féin health spokesperson Cllr John O'Dowd MLA has called on the NIO health minister Angela Smith to clarify the situation in the North over the prescription and use of Cox-2 inhibitor drugs which are used for the treatment of arthritis.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"I have written to the NIO health minister asking that she review the prescription and use of these drugs following yet another major health scare involving this type of drug. Towards the end of last year, the pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck and Co announced a world wide recall of Vioxx and VioxxAcute, which were also Cox-2 inhibitors, after it was discovered that there was an increased relative risk to users of the drug for confirmed cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke.

"It has now emerged that the largest Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO) i n the US has prohibited the distribution of the arthritis treatment Bextra, amid ongoing and growing concerns about the Cox-2 inhibitor class of drugs to which Bextra belongs. In particular, it appears that these concerns also relate to cardiovascular side-effects.The European Medicines Agency is also currently investigating the risks associated with all Cox-2 inhibitor drugs.

"Rather await the outcome of those investigations, I have asked that Angela Smith instructs the Chief Medical Officer to issue an immediate alert to all doctors over the usage of these Cox-2 inhibitor drugs, and to replace them with suitable and effective alternatives. It is vitally important that patients are prescribed with medically approved drugs which do not pose them any major health risk. " ENDS

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