Drugmakers Brace For EU Curbs On COX-2 Pain Drugs

Drugmakers are braced for new curbs on the use of COX-2 pain medicines in Europe, just as the Food and Drug Administration weighs the future of the controversial drug class in the United States. Industry sources said the European Medicines Agency was likely to strengthen warnings about cardiovascular risks associated with the drug class on Thursday, but stop short of calling for them to be taken off the market. Scientific experts at the agency have been meeting this week to consider COX-2 safety, following the withdrawal of Merck & Co Inc's Vioxx last September after a study showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke. They have taken evidence from Merck and other leading drug manufacturers. An agency spokesman said any statement would be issued later on Thursday, at the end of the monthly meeting of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use. Since the Vioxx recall, questions have arisen about similar pain pills from Pfizer Inc, Celebrex and Bextra, as well Merck's newer COX-2 medicine Arcoxia. Novartis AG also has a COX-2 drug called Prexige waiting in the wings, while GlaxoSmithKline Plc is working on an experimental one, known as '381.

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