About half of older patients regularly taking Vioxx or Celebrex for pain also appear to be on aspirin therapy to prevent heart attacks. But that combination could be endangering their health.
Combining the two drugs increases the risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding.
Even worse, about half the aspirin-takers are further boosting their bleeding risk by using excessive doses of aspirin, a new survey indicates. Doctors recommend 81 milligrams of aspirin a day to protect against heart attack and stroke, but those surveyed frequently used 325-milligram tablets, researchers reported in the June 14 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Vioxx and Celebrex, members of a class of drugs called COX-2 inhibitors, are relatively expensive pain relievers whose chief advantage over other inflammation-fighters is that they're less likely to cause gastrointestinal bleeding. However, researchers with Express Scripts Inc., a large pharmacy benefit management company in St. Louis, found that many older users of these drugs didn't know that aspirin increased the risk of such bleeding.
In 2001, working from mail-order prescription records, they conducted telephone surveys of 350 long-term adult users of the COX-2 anti-inflammatories. All got their prescription drug coverage through a large employer that had six retirees for every active worker.