U athletes to stop use of popular drug Vioxx

The FDA announced Thursday that the maker of Vioxx was right to quit its sales.

Dan Miller

Minnesota volleyball player Paula Gentil received a phone call Friday from the team trainer, Shelly Kinney.

“She told me if I had any Vioxx on my shelf to throw it away,” Gentil said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

Many University athletes should have received a similar call Friday. The popular pain reliever Vioxx is being discontinued, and University athletes will have to stop taking it, University athletics trainers said Friday.

After DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. announced Thursday that it would be withdrawing the popular pain medication Vioxx from the market, Moira Novak, University director of athletic medicine sent a memo to all University athletic trainers to stop their athletes from using the medication.

Novak and University Medical Director Dr. Elizabeth Arendt decided to discontinue the use of the medication after a study showed that Vioxx patients were three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those taking no pain medication.

Novak said University athletes used the drug “with a fain amount of frequency,” mostly in treating over-use injuries.

“I wouldn’t say (Vioxx) is the most popular anti-inflammatory, but it’s definitely a popular med,” she said.

Novak’s memo told trainers to track down athletes currently taking the medication and to have them consult with the team or family physician to discuss their use of the potentially dangerous drug.

Women’s track and cross country coach Gary Wilson said the University is lucky to have a cutting-edge medical staff.

“If something is not safe or might not be safe, they are always on top of it,” he said.

Sports doctors have been attracted to the medicine, mostly used to treat arthritis pain, because it has shown it has fewer side effects and doesn’t wear down the lining of the stomach, as Ibuprofen and other pain relievers do.

Many professional sports teams are using or have used Vioxx.

The Minnesota Twins said Thursday that athletics trainer Jim Kahmann and team physician Dr. John Steubs are discussing alternative drugs for their players who use Vioxx.

The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that the risk of heart attack and stroke was very small, but said Merck was right to discontinue Vioxx sales.

Novak said only the physicians assigned to specific sports teams are allowed to prescribe such a medication to athletes. She said the type of prescription varies with the preference of the athlete and physician.