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    New Arthritis Drugs Reduce Ulcer Risk -- At a Cost


    The second study, led by a researcher from Birmingham, England, looked at the risk of serious ulcers among people who took Vioxx. To increase accuracy, researchers combined the results of eight studies that included a total of more than 5,000 patients who took Vioxx for arthritis.

    The researchers found that people taking Vioxx were about half as likely as those taking a traditional NSAID to have ulcers that perforated the stomach wall, which caused bleeding or pain.

    Such a reduction is important, but it appears more dramatic than it really is, says Peterson. He says that's because even among people who take large doses of aspirin or similar NSAIDs every day, dangerous or painful ulcers are very rare.

    So Peterson says the new drugs should be reserved for older people or people who have already had an ulcer. "For low-risk patients," he says, "the cost of preventing serious ulcers by using these drugs is very high -- about $400,000 for each complication avoided."

    The study involving Celebrex was funded by G.D. Searle & Co., maker of the drug. The research involving Vioxx received funding from its maker, Merck & Co. Inc.

    Vital Information:

    • Two new prescription drugs for treating arthritis, Celebrex and Vioxx, work just as well as older medications but are less likely to cause ulcers.
    • The occurrence of dangerous or painful ulcers as a side effect is rare, even among people who take large, daily doses of aspirin or other similar drugs.
    • The new arthritis drugs are much more expensive and, according to an editorialist, should be reserved for people at high risk of getting an ulcer.
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