The new arthritis drug Prexige is said to be linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes and arthritis sufferers have been warned to exercise caution in its use.
The federal government's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) will make the drug Prexige (generic name, lumiracoxib) available from Tuesday. The drug is the first COX-2 inhibitor to be marketed in Australia since it was found in 2004 that these group of drugs increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Popular arthritis drug Vioxx was taken off shelves while the drug Celebrex was forced to carry warnings about heart disease ever since this revelation was made public in 2004.
The National Prescribing Service has released an independent review warning that the evidence of long-term cardiovascular safety of the new drug is limited.
Dr Peter Roush from the National Prescribing Service says that the safer option for patients should be to first try to manage their condition with over-the-counter painkillers.
He said, "People with osteoarthritis should first consider an effective dose of paracetamol and speak with their doctor if they need a medicine to manage the pain. For some people, lumiracoxib may be an appropriate alternative to other medicines in the same class. This medicine has benefits for people at risk of a stomach ulcer, but we don't know everything about its risk to the heart and brain."
COX-2 inhibitors have been non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which were developed as an alternative to older NSAIDs like ibuprofen, Voltaren, or naproxen. And studies showed that lumiracoxib caused fewer serious ulcer complications such as bleeding, than ibuprofen or naproxen.
He said, "But people who are likely to have stomach trouble should use lumiracoxib with caution, as it does not eliminate the risk of getting an ulcer. There's limited evidence available about the long-term risk to your heart when using this medicine, but we do know you should not use it if you have, or are likely to have, cardiovascular disease."
The medicine is recommended for use for the shortest possible time, ideally when symptoms flare up or before painful activities.