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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2003 Nov;42(11):1342-53. Epub 2003 Jun 27.

Comparison of the incidence rates of thromboembolic events reported for patients prescribed rofecoxib and meloxicam in general practice in England using prescription-event monitoring (PEM) data.

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Drug Safety Research Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.



Rofecoxib and meloxicam are classified as cyclo-oxygenase (COX)-2 selective inhibitors. The Drug Safety Research Unit (DSRU) monitored the post-marketing safety of these drugs in England using the non-interventional observational cohort technique of prescription-event monitoring (PEM).


To compare the incidence rates of selected thromboembolic (TE)(cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and peripheral venous thrombotic) events reported for patients prescribed rofecoxib and meloxicam in general practice.


Patients were identified from dispensed prescriptions written by general practitioners (GPs) for meloxicam (December 1996 to March 1997) and rofecoxib (July to November 1999). Simple questionnaires requesting details of events recorded during/after treatment, indication and potential risk factors (including age, sex and NSAIDs prescribed within 3 months of treatment) were posted to prescribing GPs approximately 9 months after the first prescription for each patient. Incidence rates of the first event within each TE group were calculated; crude and age- and sex-adjusted rate ratios (RR) obtained using regression modelling.


During the 9 months after starting treatment, 21 (0.14%) and 19 (0.10%) patients were reported to have cardiovascular TE events, and 74 (0.48%) and 52 (0.27%) cerebrovascular TE events, and 6 (0.05%) and 20 (0.10%) were reported to have peripheral venous thrombotic events for rofecoxib and meloxicam, respectively. Regarding time to first event, there was a persistent divergence between the two drugs from the start of treatment for both the cerebrovascular TE event group (log rank test P = 0.0063) and the peripheral venous thrombotic event group (log rank test P = 0.0264). Indication and use of a NSAID within 3 months prior to starting treatment had no statistically significant effect on the relative risk estimates of the event groups and was excluded from subsequent analyses. Adjusting for the two identified risk factors of age (age2) and sex, for rofecoxib the adjusted cerebrovascular TE event group rate was higher than for meloxicam [RR 1.68 (95% CI 1.15, 2.46)]; lower than meloxicam for the peripheral venous thrombotic event group [RR 0.29 (95% CI 0.11, 0.78)], and not different for the cardiovascular TE event group [RR 1.38 (95% CI 0.71, 2.67)].


This study reports a relative increase in the rate of cerebrovascular TE events and a relative reduction in peripheral venous thrombotic events in users of rofecoxib compared with meloxicam. There was no difference in the rate of cardiovascular thromboembolic events. The incidence of these three groups of events reported in each of these two drug cohorts was low (less than 0.5%), therefore the relevance of our findings needs to be taken into consideration with other clinical and pharmacoepidemiological studies.

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