An official with Merck says that all painkillers in the same class as the company's Vioxx may cause heart problems or strokes. That's a change from the drug-maker's earlier position. Vioxx was pulled off the market in September. Merck research head Doctor Ned Braunstein has told two panels of Food and Drug Administration advisers that since the company pulled Vioxx from the market last year, studies suggesting similar problems with Celebrex and Bextra have changed his mind.
The drugs, designed to help people in chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis, are known as Cox-Two inhibitors. Celebrex and Bextra, made by Pfizer, remain on the market, though some studies have also indicated they, too, may carry an added heart risk. At least two other Cox-Two drugs are awaiting approval.