Aspirin Might Prevent Vioxx Damage to Heart

January 31, 2006

Vioxx, the painkiller that was withdrawn from the market because it presented an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, may get a reprieve. A Duke study using mice suggests that low-dose aspirin might prevent such heart damage from Vioxx. The researchers' findings that a chemical imbalance might underlie such damage could also lead to the development of anti-inflammatory drugs without the adverse side effects, they say.

In a study reported in Cell Metabolism, the researchers, led by Thomas M. Coffman, chief of Duke Medical Center's division of nephrology, found that a strain of mice prone to high blood pressure showed an imbalance in the natural chemicals that controlled blood-vessel dilation and blood clotting. This finding, say the researchers, suggests that this imbalance could present a cardiovascular hazard to people already predisposed to high blood pressure who took the class of painkillers called "cox-2 inhibitors" such as Vioxx. The hazard is particularly unfortunate because drugs such as Vioxx avoid the gastrointestinal bleeding caused by traditional painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

However, they say, cardiovascular damage from cox-2 inhibitors like Vioxx might be prevented by low doses of drugs like aspirin that block the unrestrained action of the natural chemical thromboxane, which constricts arteries and promote clots.