Painkillers – Bextra, Celebrex, and Alleve Linked to Heart Attack and Stroke

For many people, painkillers are a blessing. Painkillers are a great benefit to people suffering from pain or battling various diseases or conditions. Over the last decade, the medical community has taken a more aggressive approach to treating pain and Congress has declared the next 10 years as the "decade of pain control and research." Consequently, drug companies are introducing new painkillers and existing painkillers are more widely available.

In recent years, a new class of painkillers called Cox 2 inhibitors have become among the best selling prescription painkillers. Popular Cox 2 inhibitor drugs include Vioxx, Celebrex, and Bextra which have been used by millions of Americans. Such drug were originally touted as wonder painkillers that offered more effective pain relief with fewer side effects. However, the recall of Vioxx in September 2004 has raised serious questions about the safety of all Cox 2 inhibitors. Vioxx was recalled after anlysis of various studies and company documents showed that the drug more than doubled or even tripled the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems among users.

Since the recall of Vioxx, other painkillers, including Celebrex and Bextra have come under scrutiny. In December 2004, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that doctors limit prescriptions for the popular pain pills Celebrex and Bextra because recent studies have suggested that they may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The National Institutes of Health announced that it was ending a study using Celebrex because high doses of it more than tripled the risk of heart attacks and stroke among patients; moderate doses more than doubled those risks. Two other studies turned up new evidence that all of the popular arthritis painkillers known as COX-2 inhibitors may put users at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The FDA has called on doctors to limit prescribing of Celebrex and Bextra.. Pfizer has kept Celebrex on the market but agreed to suspend consumer advertising and has also placed a note on Bextra warning of increased risk in patients who have just had heart bypass surgery.

Another drug that has recently come under scrutiny is naproxen, which is sold over the counter under brand names such as Alleve and Naprosyn. One government study revealed that the painkiller Naproxen cmay cause an increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. The FDA issued a warning that patients taking naproxen should not exceed the recommended dose and should not take it for more than 10 days unless directed by their doctor.

Painkiller sales have tripled in less than five years. Estimates suggest that millions of Americans now use prescription pain relievers, sedatives or stimulants each month. Among the painkillers: Vicodin, Lortab, Percodan, Percocet, OxyContin, Xanax, and Valium. Stadol (a synthetic opiate nasal spray) and OxyContin are regarded as two of the most powerful painkillers, offering pain relief many times stronger than most other painkillers. Stadol and OxyContin are also regarded as two of the most addictive and abused painkillers, and are linked several deaths.

Oxycontin, produced by Purdue Pharma is commonly prescribed to treat arthritis, back pain, cancer, and other serious painful conditions. Oxycontin has been linked to over a hundred deaths and its addiction has been compared to that of heroin. In July, 2001, at the request of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the manufacturer agreed to add a black box warning (the FDA's strongest warning) calling Oxycontin as potentially addictive as morphine, and sent out letters to doctors asking them to only prescribe Oxycontin for severe pain. In January 2003, the FDA issued a stern warning against the manufacturer, in response to the manufacturer's placement of ads in a popular medical journals "grossly overstating" the drugs safety.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturer of Oxycontin, and a class action lawsuit in Ohio was recently approved.