Letter in the New York Times on Cox-2 Painkillers: Painkillers and Terrorism

This Letter to the Editor by Sidney Wolfe, M.D. appeared in The New York Times on Saturday February 26, 2005

To the Editor:

Re "F.D.A. Is Advised to Let Pain Pills Stay on Market" (front page, Feb. 19):

At the recent F.D.A. hearings about cox-2 drugs, Dr. Christopher Grubb, a captain in the Army Medical Corps, stated that the widespread use of these drugs in the military is "essential for our global war on terrorism."

Given the lack of evidence that cox-2 drugs are more effective than older pain/arthritis drugs and that they cause significant risks of heart attacks and other cardiovascular disorders, why is the military jeopardizing the troops' health by using these drugs, and why is the F.D.A. ready to leave Celebrex and Bextra on the market and even consider remarketing Vioxx?

The most conservative estimate for Vioxx, based on its four-fold increased risk of heart attacks compared with naproxen, is that it caused, annually, thousands of extra heart attacks, many fatal, with additional heart attacks caused by Celebrex and Bextra. A growing number of physicians are rejecting the use of these drugs because of their unique risks. Perhaps Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld needs to talk with military physicians.

Sidney M. Wolfe, M.D.
Washington, Feb. 19, 2005