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Ross JS, Madigan D, Hill KP, Egilman DS, Wang Y, Krumholz HM. Pooled Analysis of Rofecoxib Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial Data: Lessons for Postmarket Pharmaceutical Safety Surveillance. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(21):1976–1985. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/archinternmed.2009.394
In September 2004, rofecoxib was voluntarily withdrawn from the worldwide market. Our objective was to determine whether and when analysis of published and unpublished placebo-controlled trials could have revealed cardiovascular risk associated with rofecoxib before its withdrawal as an example to inform future postmarket pharmaceutical safety surveillance efforts.
We conducted a cumulative subject-level pooled analysis of data from all randomized, placebo-controlled trials of rofecoxib conducted by the manufacturer before September 2004. Our main outcome measurement was incidence of any investigator-reported death from any cause or cardiovascular thromboembolic (CVT) adverse event.
We identified 30 randomized, placebo-controlled trials of rofecoxib that enrolled a combined 20 152 subjects. Trial duration ranged from 4 weeks to 4 years; enrollment ranged from 17 to 2586 subjects prescribed either rofecoxib or placebo; and rofecoxib dose ranged from 12.5 mg to 50 mg. As of December 2000, 21 of these trials had been completed (70%), and the risk of a CVT adverse event or death was greater among subjects assigned to the rofecoxib group (rate ratio [RR], 2.18; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.93-5.81) (P = .07), raising concerns from a safety standpoint. Subsequently collected data through June 2001 showed that rofecoxib was associated with a 35% increased risk of a CVT adverse event or death (RR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.00-1.96) (P = .05). Analyzing data available as of April 2002, we found a 39% increased risk (RR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.07-1.80) (P = .02), and using data available as of September 2004, we found a 43% increased risk (RR,1.43; 95% CI, 1.16-1.76) (P < .001).
Cumulative pooled analysis of all randomized, placebo-controlled trials demonstrates a trend toward increased cardiovascular risk associated with rofecoxib compared with placebo as early as December 2000, the comparison reaching a P value of .05 by June 2001, nearly 3½ years before the manufacturer's voluntary market withdrawal.
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