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Medicine safety move reassures coroner over arthritis drug tragedies.

Byline: Jenny Hudson Health Correspondent

The Government's medicine safety agency is investigating the dangers of commonly prescribed drugs following a campaign by Birmingham's coroner. Dr Richard Whittington says anti-inflammatory drugs, taken for conditions such as arthritis, are killing at least 20 elderly patients in the city each year.

He has accused doctors of complacency for prescribing the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) with little thought about the side-effects, such as the development of stomach ulcers.

Health Minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath has written to Dr Whittington to tell him that an investigation is to be carried out by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

In his letter, Lord Hunt admits that serious gastro-intestinal reactions remain 'a major concern'.

The NICE inquiry is focusing on the new types of anti-inflammatory drugs, which are known as COX-2 inhibitors. The Department of Health's Committee on Safety of Medicines also plans a safety review of NSAIDS later this year.

Two months ago, an inquest was told how David Ansell, of Lichfield, Staffordshire, was prescribed the anti-inflammatory drug Naprosyn and a steroid for arthritic pain.

Weeks after taking the medication, the 78-year-old was taken to Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield, with a stomach ulcer. An emergency operation followed but Mr Ansell never recovered.

Dr Whittington said: 'I see a case of this kind every two to three weeks. It is something I have been very concerned about for a long period of time.

'I am partly re-assured that it is being investigated.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 14, 2001
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