Vioxx Back on the Market?

Government advisors are considering allowing Vioxx to remain on the market, reports the Associated Press in the article Panel Backs Keeping Pain Drugs on the Market. Vioxx is an effective pain killer and anti-inflammatory despite its side-effects. These advisors suggest that prescription drugs should carry warnings like cigarettes. Cigarettes have horrible side-effects yet they're still on the market and people still use them.

Although the FDA doesn't have to follow the recommendations of its advisors, it usually does. If Vioxx were to return to the market certain patient restrictions would apply.
Dr. Steven Nissen, medical director of the Cleveland Clinic's heart center, said, "What we really want is to make sure it's available for patients that need it and is unavailable to patients for whom it's inappropriate."

All pain killers carry risks. Ibuprofen taken in consistantly large doses over the long run will most likely cause ulcers. People who are having Vioxx related problems have been taking large doses for many years. The government can't continue to eliminate all risks involved with taking prescription drugs. A young relative of mine takes several prescribed pain killers for severe back problems and nerve damage. He already has stomach problems and a weaker immune system as a result of large doses. These costs are small compared to how severely his life-style would be restricted without pain killers.

With enough information consumers should be allowed to choose which risks they take. Too much government regulation can have adverse outcomes. As Steven Landsburg says in Fair Play, " education about risks is one thing; telling kids that there's a single "right" response to those risks is something different and more sinister."

1 comment:

Dr. Tufte said...

This is another very good post. I don't have much to add, other than decisions are about marginal tradeoffs, and there is a fundamental problem in using something like the FDA to evaluate tradeoffs for society as a whole on an average basis.