This sort of complaint was a factor in the recent, albeit restricted return of Zelnorm, the Novartis treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. And Merck claims to have received "dozens" of letters from Vioxx fans. So, The Star-Ledger of New Jersey (which, by the way, owns Pharmalot), chats with a few people who hope the same fate awaits the Merck drug.
A Maryland woodworker named Pileggi tells the paper that "I'm not prone to any of the cardiovascular issues. I'm not at risk. To me, it was a godsend." But other painkillers didn't help his back pain. "Even with a back support harness on - and I wore one of those all the time - it was like having a knife stuck in your back." Without Vioxx, he wound up selling his business.
Ben Malcom, 75, retired US Army colonel and racquetball player from Georgia, used Vioxx to relieve arthritic knee pain. "My knees have slowed me down, but when I was taking Vioxx, I could play a good game of racquetball and be competitive...If it came back on the market tomorrow, I would get a prescription and start taking it tomorrow. That's how strongly I feel about it."
The Ledger gathered these letters independently. In any event, this is convenient timing for the drugmaker, which is fighting some 27,000 Vioxx lawsuits and sporadic negative publicity, such as the recent release of a study showing Vioxx caused heart problems still faster than Merck originally claimed. For the record, Merck reiterates that the FDA "invited" talks about returning Vioxx, "the company has not made a decision."
Even though an FDA panel nixed the possibility of Merck's Arcoxia - better known as Son of Vioxx - from getting approved, the Zelnorm episode suggests the tantalizing possibility that one should 'Never say never' about Vioxx. So perhaps we'll see more such stories until Merck decides a sufficient groundswell of public outcry exists to ask the FDA to convene another panel.
Wouldn't you like to attend that meeting?