Feature Archive

After Vioxx: The Pros and Cons of Other Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

All pain relievers have risks as well as benefits. Get the pros and cons of anti-inflammatory medicines here.

By Martin Downs
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson

The recent recall of the pain reliever Vioxx has raised many questions, not the least of which is, what can patients take now?

"It's been an enormous challenge to all of us," says Terence Starz, MD, a clinical professor of medicine and chief of rheumatology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Our practice was overwhelmed," he says.

Vioxx maker Merck & Co. voluntarily pulled the drug off the market on Sept. 30, 2004, after a study showed it doubles a person's risk of heart attack and stroke. Nearly 2 million people worldwide were taking Vioxx. Starz says almost 250 of his own patients were on it.

According to Time magazine, in the day following the recall announcement, an estimated 28,800 Americans switched to another drug. Most of them went on Celebrex or Bextra, similar drugs that had been Vioxx's competitors.

Before consumers rush to another medicine, however, experts say they should pause to weigh the pros and cons of each option. All pain relievers, even over-the-counter aspirin, Motrin, or Tylenol, have risks. It's never a good idea to take any pill every day unless you're under your doctor's supervision. Moreover, pain relievers aren't always the best treatment for many causes of chronic pain.