Vioxx replacement

Helen Palmer Aug 25, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: The painkiller Vioxx has swamped Merck with 14,000 lawsuits. So, perhaps it’s a bit surprising the company wants to sell another drug in the same category. It’s called Arcoxia. Helen Palmer reports from the Health Desk at WGBH.

HELEN PALMER: Vioxx was once the best selling so-called “super aspirin” pain killer. But when Vioxx was pulled off the market in 2004, its rival Celebrex stepped in to fill the void.

So is there room for Merck’s new drug? Analyst Melissa Stolper is with Decision Resources.

MELISSA STOLPER: If you look at Celebrex, it’s still doing fairly well with sales exceeding $2 billion so there’s definitely is room for drugs within this class.

But Stolper doubts Arcoxia will offer much competition.

She says it’s not clear that it’s a safer alternative. Preliminary studies suggest it can trigger high blood pressure. And she thinks the Vioxx experience will make doctors reluctant to prescribe another Merck super-aspirin.

So why would the company push Arcoxia? Cash says Stolper.

STOLPER: The company lost a significant source of revenue when Vioxx was pulled from the market. Any sales that come out of Arcoxia are better than none.

In 2003, Vioxx earned nearly $3 billion.

In Boston, I’m Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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