Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Drug Problems

So, if you don't keep up with health news I do because of my medically related graduate work. There's been a lot of news on the arthritis drugs Vioxx, Celebrex and now Aleve (Naproxen). All these drugs have had studies come out in the last few months showing they bring an increase of risk of cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, etc).

I'm not trying to downplay the risk, but very few articles actually site the risk to a given person. For most people, the risk of having cardiovascular event in the next 3 years is less than one percent. Which means an increase of 2.5 times the norm (Vioxx) is still minimal and barely statistically significant (unless you are at high CV risk).

I was happy to stumble upon this article. Basically, it reports that a some people think the risk involved is well worth the amount of pain relief. The actions of Merck (maker of Vioxx) have probably caused more of a media frenzy than the results deserve, and may mean the demise of a whole family of drugs (COX inhibitors) that otherwise would be effective.

Bottom Line: Anything you put into your body that is not natural (whether it's a hip replacement or tylenol) will result in some kind of effect not exclusive to the desired one. Get used to it, and weigh the risk.


Blogger Joshua Conner said...

Heart disease is the highest leading cause of death in the US - the leading cause of 35% of deaths in 2002 (up from 29% in 2001 - PDF). So if a drug significantly increases that chance, shoudln't we be worried?

I think you're right that people are probably overreacting to this, but isn't looking at relatively short term risk (3 years: 1% chance of death from heart disease) rather than the long term (entire life: 35% chance of death from heart disease) a little misleading in this case?

4:08 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

>So if a drug significantly increases that
>chance, shoudln't we be worried?
Yes. Put warnings on the bottle. See your doctor if you are in a high risk group or take the drug for long periods of time. But don't discount what could be a very effective drug. Chances are your risk only goes up if you fit a certain profile. You can probably look for that research in the future.

>isn't looking at relatively short term risk
>rather than the long term a little misleading in
>this case?
They havn't been able to test it's long term effects (since the drug hasn't been around long enough). Any stats on that would be purely speculative.

12:02 AM  

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