PETALING JAYA: Popular anti-arthritis drug Vioxx has been immediately withdrawn from the market by its pharmaceutical company Merck and Company because of increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Its principal in Malaysia, Merck Sharp and Dohme Sdn Bhd, has taken steps to recall the drug, including notifying the Health Ministry’s Drug Control Agency yesterday morning after receiving instructions from its parent company in the United States.
Letters explaining the withdrawal were also sent out to hospitals, doctors and pharmacists, a spokesman from the company said yesterday.
“Patients currently on Vioxx should consult their doctor to seek advice on alternative treatments,” she said.
She said patients should also return any unused tablets to where they bought them and full refunds would be given.
A toll-free service line at 1-800-38-1202 has been set up and those who had questions could call between 9am and 6pm until Oct 8, she said.
She added that information could also be obtained from www.merck.com and www.vioxx.com.
Malaysian Society of Rheumatology president Dr Yeap Swan Sim said Vioxx was a popular drug for people suffering from various kinds of arthritis.
However, she said it was almost impossible to determine the number of patients in Malaysia who were using it.
“I don’t think there should be a problem arising from it being withdrawn as it is the kind of drug which a patient can stop taking immediately,” she said.
Dr Yeap also said there were alternatives in the market and urged patients to see their doctors to get proper advice on this.
She added that Vioxx was not only used for arthritis but also migraine and menstrual pains.
On the risks which brought about the drug’s withdrawal, she said she was not aware of any incidents of heart attack or stroke in Malaysia resulting from taking the drug.
A fact sheet by Merck said the decision to withdraw Vioxx was based on a new three-year study to evaluate the efficacy of Vioxx 25mg in preventing the recurrence of colorectal polyps.
“In this study, there was an increased relative risk for confirmed cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke,” it said.