According to a Harris poll conducted in early December for the Wall Street Journal Online, nearly half of US adults and more than 73 percent of US Vioxx users said they were closely following the story of the withdrawal of Vioxx. More than half of those who had taken Vioxx—or lived in a household where someone else did—said they took some action based on what they read. About 60 percent of those in households where Vioxx was used said they were somewhat or very concerned. (For additional results of the survey, see our Leading Indicators section.)
To me, those numbers look pretty encouraging. People understood that the Vioxx news identified a potential risk. They paid attention and took personal responsibility—just the way they're supposed to.
Our drug regulatory system depends on people paying attention to risk. It has to: No drug is completely safe, and every decision to take or not take a medication is a matter of balancing one danger against another. That's why it's good to see people reacting appropriately to the news about Vioxx.
But what were these folks and their doctors doing for the past two years? It's hardly news that there are questions about Vioxx's effects on the heart. Since 2002 the drug's prescribing information has included the results of the VIGOR trial—in which patients taking Vioxx experienced about twice as many "serious cardiovascular thrombotic adverse events" as patients taking naproxen. In the current version of the prescribing information, more than 700 words are devoted to describing the cardiovascular side effects of Vioxx—more words than appear on this page.
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