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My hell while on danger drug.

Byline: By Jane Picken

When arthritis sufferer Maureen Chapman was prescribed so-called wonder drug Vioxx, she had high hopes it would soothe her pain.

But within the space of a year the 59-year-old grandmother-of-two from Cramlington had suffered a stroke and Vioxx had been banned by doctors fearful of life-threatening side-effects.

The anti-inflammatory drug, produced in the North East by US company Merck, Sharp and Dohme, was shown to double the risk of patients having a stroke or heart attack.

Now, with the help of Newcastle solicitors, Maureen is facing a legal battle for compensation from the manufacturers.

Former school caretaker Maureen had only been taking the drug for four months during 2003 when she suffered the stroke. In 2004 her GP wrote to her and urged her to stop taking it.

"If this drug did cause the stroke then the makers should be held accountable," said Maureen, who suffers from headaches, weakness in the left side of her body and dribbling since the stroke. "They must have known it could cause this and something needs to be done.

"The drug was working pretty well but I was alarmed when I got the letter from my GP telling me to stop taking it straight away."

Vioxx was made at a factory just yards from Maureen's home in Cramlington, and was used by 400,000 people in the UK to treat pain and inflammation in osteo-arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It was banned in September 2004 following a review of data from a colon cancer trial.

Clinical trial data had shown the drug increased the incidence of blood clots linked to strokes and heart attacks.

Maureen, who lives with husband George, 60, was prescribed Vioxx in April 2003 after a string of other arthritis drugs were causing vomiting.

But in July 2004 Maureen noticed a numb feeling down the left hand-side of her body and had a number of unexplained falls ( one of which lead to a broken wrist, collarbone and elbow.

Doctors discovered Maureen had suffered a series of small strokes, one major attack and bleeding on her brain.

"I couldn't understand what caused it. I never smoked or drank, and George and I ate a low-fat diet," said Maureen. "But when I started reading about other cases where people had been taking Vioxx and had suffered a stroke or heart attack, I decided to contact a solicitor."

Solicitors from law firm Browell Smith and Co have taken Maureen's case, along with others, to US courts in a bid to get compensation. But legal technicalities mean the cases will not be heard and there are no grounds for appeal. Solicitors are now trying to pursue a claim in the UK.

Husband George said: "We're convinced the drug company knew there could be side-effects like this. The stroke could have taken her life."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 21, 2006
Words:471
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