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'Arthritis tablets gave me a heart attack...' Ex-policeman is taking action against drugs firm.

Byline: Matthew Aplin

A FORMER policeman who had a heart attack after taking a painkilling drug is taking legal action against its American manufacturer.

Gary Cummings, 54, of Cyncoed, Cardiff, was one of thousands of British people who were prescribed the drug Vioxx, used to treat arthritis.

In2004the drug was withdrawn after a study concluded it doubled the risk of heart attack.

Its makers New Jersey firm Merck Inc have since announced plans to pay more than pounds 2bn to victims of the drug - but only to those living in America.

Mr Cummings, a former army instructor and policeman, began a course of Vioxx after suffering with arthritis. He is now among those who are seeking compensation from Merck.

He said: "All through my career I had the relevant fitness tests and medicals and had no problems at all. In the police I worked in the mounted section and again passed all the relevant tests again.

"After a few years I started to have hip problems.

"They didn't know if it was genetic or from all the horse riding I had done, but I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis."

As a result of his problems he was given Vioxx by his doctor in June 2002.

"On November 6, 2002 I had a heart attack and was taken to University Hospital Wales in Heath, Cardiff.

"I was given an angiogram and they found that I had a narrowed artery and had two stents placed in it. The hospital staff asked me what the Vioxx tablets were for and I told them I was waiting for hip surgery. They said I shouldn't have taken them and took them off me."

Two days after being discharged from hospital he was re-admitted with heart pains although he did not suffer a second heart attack.

He said: "It was frightening. I thought I was going to die. I've been with my wife, Mary, 54, since I was 15 years old and I think she feared the worse.

"I stopped taking Vioxx since the heart attack and I've never had any problems since."

Mr Cummings was given a full police pension despite finishing a year short of the mandatory 30 years' work.

The-father-of-four said: "I would've like to have continued to work for the police. I always had a fit and active life and I felt too young to retire."

One of the team of lawyers representing British victims, Mark Harvey of Hugh James Solicitors, said: "Our clients have suffered greatly, either as victims themselves or having had a relative that has died after taking Vioxx."

matthew.aplin@mediawales.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

VICTIM Former policeman Gary Cummings suffered a heart attack after taking Vioxx to treat his arthritis. Below, Gary on duty.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 6, 2008
Words:456
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