Expatica news

Twelve Belgian Vioxx deaths’probable’ claims top doctor

26 January 2005

BRUSSELS – At least twelve people are thought to have died in Belgium as a result of taking the controversial painkiller Vioxx.

According to a senior advisor to Belgian Health Minister Rudy Demotte, it is “probable” that the twelve patients died as a direct result of taking the drug, La Derniere Heure reported on Wednesday.

“There is a possible relation with Vioxx – possible and even probable, given that on the whole they died from a gastrointestinal haemorrhage, a classic side-effect from taking this type of medicine,” said Dr Johan Kips, who coordinates the medicines section of Demotte’s private office.

According to La Derniere Heure, Belgian doctors have registered a total of 357 reports of worrying side effects in  patients who took the Vioxx.

The majority of cases, which were reported to the Belgian centre responsible for drug safety, concerned gastrointestinal haemorrhages, loss of blood in cells, abdominal and chest pain, ulcers and serious headaches.

Vioxx, developed by the pharmaceutical giant Merck,  was generally prescribed for rheumatism and arthritis.

It first became available in Belgium in 1999 but it was withdrawn from sale across the world last September after the medical authorities in the US said they were seriously concerned about the drug’s safety.

On Tuesday, medical review The Lancet estimated Vioxx could have caused between 88,000 and 140,000 cases of serious cardiovascular diseases in the US alone.

Merck is preparing to fight claims from a number of patients who are to sue over the consequences of taking the drug.

In 2004, some 30,000 Belgians were treated with Vioxx.

The Vioxx scandal has raised doubts about a whole series of other similar drugs.

Kips has advised Belgian still doctors prescribing similar medicines still on the market, such as Celebrex, to do so with caution.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news