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Vioxx: An Alternative for Those with Osteoarthritis

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Vioxx: An Alternative for Those with Osteoarthritis

May 11, 2000
By Lindsey Christie, Knee1 Staff

Vioxx has become one of the fastest-selling drugs in the world. The FDA approved Vioxx in May of 1999 for the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA), menstrual pain, and the management of acute pain in adults. Drug sales have soared since last spring, and reports indicate that more than 6 million Americans are currently taking Vioxx.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. According to the American Medical Association it affects more than 16 million Americans. It is a degenerative disease associated with wear and tear and it is mainly found in the elderly. People suffering with OA often have pain and a limited range of motion in one or both knees. This pain and inflammation causes significant discomfort and because there is no cure for arthritis, patients rely on medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) to provide relief. Although NSAIDS may improve comfort levels they may also produce damaging effects such as stomach upset, gastrointestinal problems, bleeding and ulcers.

Vioxx is a new non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug; it is the second drug approved in a class of drugs referred to as Cox-2 inhibitors. The Cox-2 inhibitors work in a similar manner to the traditional NSAIDS in blocking pain and inflammation, but studies show that they are less likely to produce stomach upset, ulcers or bleeding. Although the development of Cox-2 inhibitor drugs, such as Vioxx, is an exciting alternative for people suffering from OA, and other forms of acute pain, doctors state that it is not a miracle drug; it may help patients manage the disease but it will not change the course of the disease.

Vioxx has been well received by both physicians and patients and has reached $472 million in sales for the last year with estimates suggesting that sales may reach $2 billion or more by 2002. Merck & Co., the makers of Vioxx, hope to market this new drug to more than 2.1 million Americans who suffer from a chronic inflammatory disease known as rheumatoid arthritis. Clinical trials are currently underway to test for efficacy and safety of Vioxx in individuals who have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

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