Ankylose This! Living with Ankylosing Spondylitis

Thursday, December 23, 2004

From my cold, dead hands

Arthritis drugs have really hit a rough patch lately, haven't they? First, of course, there was the Vioxx recall, about which much has already been said.

Then, when Health Canada issued a warning about Bextra (valdecoxib), another cox-2, I thought, hmm, that's peculiar. And when, as Richard pointed out, Celebrex was linked to increased heart risks, I thought that we may well be seeing the beginnings of a wholesale collapse of cox-2 drugs as a class. (See also today's recommendation from the FDA to limit the use of Celebrex and Bextra.)

But then they went after my beloved naproxen, which, in patients over 70, has shown an increased risk of heart attacks. And I thought, oh no you don't!

According to the CBC News Online article,

The FDA advised patients currently taking naproxen to follow the instructions on the label and not to exceed the recommended dose or take the medication for longer than 10 days unless directed by a physician.

With the exception of a period between June 2000 and January 2001, when I experimented with other arthritis drugs, I've been on high doses of naproxen for seven straight years. Oh dear.

When I met other AS patients at a day-long class on managing the disease, we compared notes on what we were taking. I was on naproxen. The woman next to me couldn't handle naproxen and was on indomethacin (which, I later discovered, I couldn't handle). Guy across the room took ibuprofen every once in a while. My point: every one of us has a different case that reacts differently to medication, and each of our bodies tolerates different drugs in different ways. So I suspect that when we find a drug that works, we tend to want to hang onto it. For Richard it's Celebrex; for me it's naproxen; our other still-to-post contributors are, I believe, taking other medications. Chacun à son besoin.

Here's a story about a 37-year-old AS sufferer for whom Celebrex is the best option. She will not stop taking it unless Pfizer pulls it from the market. If she can't take it, she doesn't think she can work.

Fortunately, no one is talking about withdrawing naproxen or Celebrex quite yet. No medication is without risks. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. And frankly, most of us will take that risk rather than face certain, constant debilitating pain.

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