Monday, August 22, 2005

Vioxx - Shmioxx!

***Update below:
Merck Pharmaceuticals is being held liable for the death of a man who had a fatal attack while on the medication. Here is my experience with it:
I took Vioxx in 2004 for plantar fascitis and some pain in my back. Thank God I had enough sense to stop it after 45 days.

When I went to the doc for a physical in Feb. 2004, he offered me some samples of Vioxx, enough for 10-12 days and a prescription for a month's supply. I had barely heard of it, but it was supposed to be a good medicine to try because it had less of a probability for stomach upset than some others. I took the samples and had half of the prescription filled. Except for the package inserts (they of the unreadably fine print) I was not given any warning of possible side effects.

It did help the pain in my back and it seemed to be helping with the pain in my arches, so I had the second half of the prescription filled. Around the 30th day, I noticed that running up the stairs caused me to be short of breath. I am not in the greatest shape, but I had previously been able to go up the stairs fairly quickly without a problem. About the same time (or possibly earlier) my feet and ankles began to swell, and I noticed a drop in urine production. Internal upsets had become frequent, along with a nagging ache in my stomach. I stopped the pills with one left in the bottle, and called the doctor's office to ask what else I might need to do. They had me come in immediately for urinalysis, blood pressure and some other blood stats. My blood pressure was elevated much higher than ever before in my life, even when I was pregnant.

The doc put me on a weak generic diuretic, which did nothing to relieve the symptoms that I could tell. Two weeks later, I was placed on a stronger diuretic - along with potassium - and that seemed to help. My blood pressure went down gradually and the swelling eventually stopped. I was fine for about 5-6 months, and then it all started up again.

In the time between the Vioxx and the second set of symptoms, I had taken arthritis-strength acetominiphen for back pain, 4 pills a day for 4-5 weeks. There had never been any publicized research to show that it is harmful (unless you consume more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day) but now, it is being reported that acetominiphen can cause effects which are similar to those caused by the Cox-2 inhibitors (as was Vioxx, Celebrex, Bextra, and who knows what else)! It is getting so that I hesitate to take ANY medication, even aspirin, although I think of all the medications ever invented for pain, aspirin is probably the best and the least problematic.

After Vioxx was taken off the market and we bagan to be flooded with information about all the heart attacks, strokes and deaths its use had possibly caused, I contacted several attorney's offices about being included in the class action lawsuits being mounted. But I guess they are only looking for people who died from it - because no one ever returned my calls. I may have to be on diuretics and potassium for the rest of my life (at my expense) all because I tried samples and a prescription proffered by my doctor. Is that fair?

***I took the advice given by one of my commenters, and I emailed a local law firm today with the information above. I received a call from one of their representatives, who explained that as of now, the symptoms I experienced have not been found to be caused by Vioxx (at least not officially), so there is nothing I can do at this point. However, if in the future, that should change, I should contact them again.


The Mistress of the Dark said...

They wanted my mum to take Vioxx too. I'm really glad she didn't.

I'm in agreement too. Asprin and Tylenol are probably the only pain relievers that don't have very many nasty side effects.

I think though when you get down to it any drug you take for extended periods is probably going to affect your system.


On a happier note. Have a good Monday :)

Angie said...

Both my mother and my grandmother took Vioxx. My grandmother unexpectantly died in the hospital after surgery. I will NEVER believe it was not from complications of her having taken that medicine. To this day the attending physician has no explanation as to how she slipped away from life.

Laura said...

Oh, that's awful... Even long term use of asprin can be harmful in some people, it's supposed to cause stomach bleeding, etc. again, depends on the person, of course.
I hope somehow they find an alternative for you other than the diuretics and potassium!
Congrats on your 6K mark ;)

jennyonthespot said...

That is horrible... it is interesting to me that with all the regulations on new medications, how can such dangerous meds make it to the public??? So sorry to hear you have long-lasting effects...

On a happy note - thank you for visiting me, via Michele - and congrats on your 6000 mark!

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Don't give up, Judy. SOMEBODY has to want your case. Or maybe you can get some lawyer to take it on a contingent fee basis. If I were you, I'd fight like a mashed cat.

Kim said...

This is really scary. The problems came on so fast - you would think that any potential problems of this magnitude would have shown up before FDA approval. Vioxx was being prescribed right-and-left when it first came out; I would see it in the ER on med lists every day. To request compensation for medication costs is not outrageous (maybe try Google to find the firms in the class action suit).
Congrats on hitting 6000!
I don't watch General Hospital (last time was during the Luke and Laura era) but that post looks hilarious, I'm off to read.

Jamie Dawn said...

So sorry you had such a terrible and scary experience.
I'm just glad you had the common sense to stop taking it. Who knows if it's Vioxx that caused your symptoms, but one thing we do know is that some people died from it. Thank God you're not one of them!

srp said...

I say sue all the drug companies if you want. Then when they stop making flu vaccine and stop doing research on new cancer drugs or hear medications because it is to risky to take on such liability, I guess we will see what happens then.

The case in Texas was weak for proving Vioxx "caused" the death. The jury wanted to punish Merck, maybe they needed it, maybe the FDA needs punishing, but when juries punish them with excessive awards two things will happen. 1) The lawyers are the real winners, make the money 2) EVERYONE will pay higher prices for medicine.

If you stop an think about it. Penicillen was an accident. It saved hundreds of thousands of lives during the invasion of Europe at the end of World War II. If it had to be approved by the FDA today it probably wouldn't be because of the high incidence of severe allergic reactions associated with it.

I personally think that one way to help with the proper testing and evaluation of a new drug is to prohibit drug companies from advertising on television. I don't remember TV ads for prescription drugs when I was a kid. Now they are all over the place from antidepressants to viagra to allergy meds and back again. My mom is on Procrit for anemia. The ads on TV only talk about it for use in cancer patients and their anemia. She sees the ad and then asks for the umpteenth time if her anemia could be leukemia. All this anxiety over a tv ad. As a consuming public we are so gullible to advertising.

srp said...

Sorry, I meant "heart medications" in that first paragraph. Fingers go too fast for my brain sometimes.

kenju said...

SRP: I wholly agree with the idea that the award is too great. Perhaps the jury did want to punish Merck, and that amount (if it holds through the appeals) is definitely punitive. I do think they should be held accountable though, as it really does look like they knew that there was a high percentage of dire side effects from the drug while it was in clinical trials.

I also agree that the kind of advertising we have now (both print and TV) is not good and should be abolished. Pharmaceutical companies should market to medical professionals only!!

Carol said...

Of course you can play piano in the Friends of the Friendless band. Please come and sign in at

I saw your comment on Raehan's blog.

srp said...

Amen. I really think that getting rid of the advertisements would help in many ways, make them market only to physicians, make them slow down a little, and make pressure from the public who wants the new drugs pronto less on the FDA and the companies.

I don't like medicine but vaccines have essentially gotten rid of many childhood diseases that were deadly in the forties and even the fifties. They didn't have measles, mumps, rubella when I was little and I ended up with the full blown measles, not fun. Fortunately, no latent problems from that...yet.

If they knew there were problems and didn't warn physicians, yes they need to be punished. But what is that old saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."?

It's just like parents that won't vaccinate their kids because of the very rare reactions. You only have to hear one baby with whooping cough, struggling to breath to change your mind.

I hate that people have bad reactions to medicine. Aspirin can cause stomach ulcers. When I was a child we took baby aspirin for fever and flu. Early in my career they started warning parents about using aspirin in young children with viral flu symptoms and the chance for Reyes Syndrome. It was thought to only occur in children under 10. But more cases came up with kids into their teenage years and beyond. I knew the parents of one 13 year old girl with the flu and fever. She took aspirin, not knowing, in two days she was in a coma with liver failure and in spite of every thing they could do, she died. So aspirin in not inocuous. To balance the downside, it has been shown to decrease the damage to the heart muscle duing a heart attack when taken at the first symptoms. Every prescription drug has it's upside and it's downside. It's a delicate balance that risk vs. benefit thing.

I think we have become people who are searching for that all encompassing pill. Pop it and everything goes back to normal. Maybe we should set Hoss out to work on this...he could make his pile.