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Therapeutic prospects beyond Vioxx

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have clarified the mechanism by which drugs like Celebrex and Vioxx cause heart problems, in multiple animal models. The findings offer the prospect of a new generation of anti-inflammatory drugs that bypass this issue, as reported in the April 13 advanced online edition and May print issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"Although these results are in mice, not people, they raise an exciting possibility which can be tested in humans," says senior author Garret FitzGerald, MD, Director of Penn's Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics,

Ever since the association of selective inhibitors of COX-2 ?Vioxx, Bextra, and Celebrex ?with an increased incidence of heart attack and stroke, there has been intense interest in understanding the mechanism involved. Clarification of this issue offers the prospect of conserving the clinical benefit of these drugs for patients with arthritis, while managing the risk.

Almost 10 years ago, FitzGerald noticed that both Celebrex and Vioxx depressed in healthy individuals a protective fat called prostacyclin, while leaving unaltered a harmful one called thromboxane. This led him to predict that drugs in this class might confer a cardiovascular risk before either reached the US market.

In the present studies, the investigators used multiple genetically manipulated mice ?including mice that mimicked the impact of either COX-2 inhibitors or low-dose aspirin and compared them with treating healthy mice with COX-2 inhibitors, such as Celebrex. They found that genetic disruption of COX-2; inhibition of the enzyme by different inhibitors; and disruption of prostacyclin's effects by removing its receptor all had the same effect ?a predisposition to clotting and an elevation of blood pressure. "This provides compelling evidence in support of the original hypothesis," says co-author Colin Funk, PhD, who has collaborated with Fit
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Source:University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine


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