Safety Questions About Drugs

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I'm Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Several pain medicines in the United States have been linked to
an increase in heart attacks and strokes. Pfizer Drug Company says a
new study shows that high levels of Celebrex increase the risk of
heart attack. Celebrex is a popular pain medicine for people who
suffer from the bone disease arthritis.

The company says it will continue to sell Celebrex. But, it will
halt all media advertisements about the drug. The company also says
it will continue to market Celebrex directly to doctors. Sales
people from drug companies often give free supplies of medicines to
doctors. Doctors often give them to their patients.

A recent study has also raised safety questions about the pain
medicine naproxen, sold as Aleve. A study by the National Institutes
of Health says the drug can increase the risk of heart attacks and
strokes. The Bayer Group drug company makes Aleve. People can buy
the drug in stores without an order or prescription from their
doctor. Patients can also take a prescription form of the drug.

The United States Food and Drug Administration says it is too
early to say what action might be taken on Celebrex and Aleve. The
agency can legally remove, or recall, a harmful product from the
marketplace. Or a drug company can withdraw a product. This happened
in September when Merck and Company stopped selling its popular
arthritis pain medicine called Vioxx. A study by Merck showed that
heart attacks were almost two times as common among Vioxx users as
among those who did not take the drug.

The recall of Vioxx has led to criticism about the F.D.A. Richard
Graham is a drug safety expert with the agency. Last month, he told
a Senate committee that the F.D.A. poorly supervised the approval of
Vioxx. Doctor Graham said his agency denied evidence that Vioxx was
unsafe. He also said the F.D.A. is unwilling to admit possible
safety problems with drugs that it has already approved.

Safety concerns about Vioxx, Celebrex and Aleve may lead doctors
to consider another form of pain treatment. Two new studies show
that traditional Chinese acupuncture eased the suffering of people
with pain in their knees caused by arthritis. Acupuncture involves
placing thin needles in the skin at special parts of the body.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Jill Moss.
I'm Gwen Outen.