, Volume 64, Issue 8, pp 829-834
Date: 29 May 2008

Was the thrombotic risk of rofecoxib predictible from the French Pharmacovigilance Database before 30 September 2004?

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Rofecoxib was withdrawn from the market on 30 September 2004 following the results of a randomized controlled trial. Following this sudden decision, several controversies occurred in the literature to determine whether this adverse drug reaction (ADR) could have been detected earlier. The aim of this study was to investigate whether this kind of signal could have been seen using the French Pharmacovigilance Database before this date of rofecoxib withdrawal.


Using cases registered in the French Pharmacovigilance Database from May 2000 to December 2006, we applied the case–noncase method to “serious” thrombotic ADRs reported with oral formulations of rofecoxib or celecoxib in patients older than 15 years. Cases were all notifications of thrombotic ADRs [World Health Organization Adverse Reaction Terminology (WHO-ART) codes 1300] occurred under coxib (rofecoxib, celecoxib) and noncases all other reports registered in the database (whatever the drug). We calculated a cumulative odds ratio (OR) from 20 May 2000 to 31 December 2006, with a special interest for the period before the 30 September 2004.


Among the 50,087 “serious” ADRs registered in the database during this period, 1,127 were thrombotic ones. Rofecoxib exposure was significantly associated with high values of odds ratio (OR) [4.2 (95% CI 1.97–8.61)] for thrombotic ADRs as early as the end of 2001. The values of ADR reporting ORs remained high (3.0–3.5) until 2006. For celecoxib, a significant trend occurred only from September 2004.


Despite the compulsory limits of the case/noncase methodology, this study found an association between rofecoxib exposure and the occurrence of “serious” thrombotic ADRs as early as the end of the first year of rofecoxib marketing in France. The association between celecoxib and the occurrence of such ADRs appears less clear. Our work also shows the potential use of careful analysis of pharmacovigilance databases (investigating, for example, cumulative values of risk) in the early identification of new ADRs.