Research: Vioxx Might Increase Risk of Heart Attack

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ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT VIOXX . . . but not for the reasons Merck & Co. recommends. Last week a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study found a link with heart attacks, and several large health insurers said they may restrict payments for the arthritis drug. Some previous studies, but not all, have found a similar link between Vioxx and heart risk. Another study, to be released this week by insurer Aetna Inc., is expected to come to similar conclusions.

The FDA and Aetna reviews follow a 2001 article that found the entire class of painkillers known as COX-2 inhibitors, which include Vioxx and Pfizer's Celebrex, might cause blood clots that trigger heart attack and stroke. Some subsequent studies, including the current ones, show Vioxx carries greater heart risk than other drugs in its class. The COX-2 drugs are designed to fight inflammation and pain while reducing the risk of ulcers caused by over-the-counter pain medication, such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

Merck said it "strongly disagrees" with the FDA's conclusions, noting that the research was retrospective. Such studies are considered less reliable than ones in which participants are enrolled ahead of time, given either the drug in question or a placebo, and then followed closely.

PAIN, NO GAIN More people get hurt playing softball than skateboarding. Volleyball causes more injuries than tennis. And basketball is the most injurious sport of all. These findings come from 2003 data on people who got medical care for sports-related injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission numbers were analyzed by researchers at Loyola University Health System outside Chicago. "The summer Olympic Games may inspire people to try a new sport," said Pietro Torino, co-director of the division of sports medicine at Loyola. But " people need proper training and conditioning to reduce their injury risk. "

Female athletes, who suffer many injuries to the ligaments surrounding the knee, are advised to strengthen their hamstrings and land from jumps or falls with knees bent. "When playing basketball and volleyball, position the buttocks as if one was about to sit down in a chair," Torino said. The top five injury-causing sports are: basketball, cycling, football, soccer and baseball.

SO NOTED "A better mechanism for weight gain could not have developed than introducing a liquid carbohydrate with calories that are not fully compensated for by increasing satiety." — Caroline M. Apovian of the Boston University School of Medicine, commenting on a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association linking sugar-sweetened soft drinks to obesity and diabetes. — From News Services and Staff Reports Source: The Washington Post

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