Merck & Co could make a decision in the near future on whether to resume sales of its painkiller, Vioxx (rofecoxib), which it removed from the market last year after it was linked to a heightened risk of heart attack [[01/10/04a]], a top official at the company told a US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel yesterday, according to Industry reports.

According to the New York Times, Dr Peter Kim, president of Merck’s research laboratories, said that if the agency ruled that other drugs in the COX-2 inhibitor class, such as Pfizer’s Celebrex (celecoxib) and Bextra (valdecoxib), were also associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular side effects, then the company would have to take that into account when deciding on Vioxx’ future.

Although, Dr Kim did not directly state that the company would consider returning Vioxx to the market, the New York Times quotes a Merck statement as saying: “If the advisory committee and the FDA conclude that the benefits of this class outweigh the risks in some patient populations, then we would have to consider the implications of these new data given the unique benefits Vioxx offers.”