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A three-year study of the effects of Vioxx (rofecoxib) in 2,587 patients showed that use of the once-popular prescription painkiller doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke, confirming concerns over the drug's health risks that prompted its withdrawal from the market in 2004.
Reuters reports that the study shows the risk to Vioxx patients continuing even a year after use of the medication is stopped, quoting an author of the study: "The good news is the data suggests that the risk doesn't persist forever. The risk goes back toward normal after a year of follow up" (Dr. Robert Bresalier of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas). The long-term Vioxx study is published in the October 14, 2008 issue of the medical journal Lancet.
Beginning in 1999, Vioxx was prescribed for treatment of osteoarthritis and management of acute pain in adults. But in September 2004, manufacturer Merck & Co. Inc. announced that it was withdrawing Vioxx from the market worldwide, due to increased risks of heart attack and stroke in users of the drug. In August 2008, Merck began paying settlement claims to those injured by Vioxx, and it is estimated that 97 percent of those eligible have chosen to participate in the settlement, which could reach as much as $4.85 billion in claims paid.