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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Some military hospitals in the Pacific are recalling the arthritis medication rofecoxib, better known as Vioxx.

The Merck Corp. announced a voluntary worldwide withdrawal of the medication on Sept. 30. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the recall was issued due to “safety concerns of an increased risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke, in patients on Vioxx.”

Neither the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa nor the 18th Medical Group Clinic on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, are dispensing the medication, according to Amanda Woodhead, hospital spokeswoman. She said both facilities are urging patients to stop taking the medication.

Woodhead said current prescriptions for Vioxx will be changed automatically to an alternative; patients can call the hospital pharmacy at DSN 643-7557, or the Kadena Clinic at DSN 630-4591, or visit one of the pharmacies to have the substitute prescription filled. Patients also can return any unused Vioxx when they pick up their new medication.

Woodhead said paying patients at the hospital can return any unused Vioxx, including already opened packages, to the business office for reimbursement. She added that in order to be reimbursed, the medication must be returned in the prescribed bottle. Contact the business office at DSN 643-7738/7438 for more information on reimbursement for returned Vioxx.

In Japan, Maj. Andrew Moore, the 374th Medical Group’s deputy chief of staff, said the Yokota Air Base hospital also is recalling Vioxx and advising patients to stop taking the medication immediately.

Individuals with Vioxx prescriptions are urged to contact their primary care physicians, Moore said. It’s uncertain whether they’ll receive substitute medications or be reimbursed.

U.S. Naval Hospital, Yokosuka’s pharmacy was not asking patients to return their Vioxx, but it is no longer filling or refilling prescriptions for it.

“They don’t have to bring their Vioxx back to us,” said Navy Lt. Ben Schwartz, the hospital’s head pharmacist. “We say they should contact their physician for an alternate, at their leisure. It’s not an immediate concern. The risk for a cardiovascular event is very low.”

Officials from the 18th Medical Command at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

The recall by Merck affects Vioxx only and is not considered an immediate concern to patients who have been taking the drug. Food and Drug Administration officials did not require the withdrawal and said that the risk to individual patients is small.

Visit www.merck.com, or www.vioxx.com for more information about Vioxx and its recall.

Greg Tyler and Vince Little contributed to this report.

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