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Health News Archive 369 - Drug Side Effects
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Astaxanthin Offsets Cholesterol Damage Caused by Vioxx

Researchers report that astaxanthin can protect cholesterol against oxidation for patients taking Vioxx, the popular arthritis prescription drug that was pulled from the market in September 2004.  It was found that Vioxx users had a 200% increased risk of having a heart attack. Research has found that this increased risk for heart attack is because Vioxx forms a reactive molecule not formed with other arthritis drugs, including celebrex, that is capable of causing cell damage and disrupting cell function.

In the study, researchers collected LDL cholesterol from human venous blood by centrifugation methods done previously and incubated it with Vioxx, astaxanthin, or both for 30 minutes. To assess the extent of LDL oxidation, researchers measured levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), a product of fat oxidation.

The researchers found that Vioxx caused “marked increases” in MDA and increased LDL oxidation by nearly 43%. The effects of astaxanthin on Vioxx were, according to the researchers, “remarkable”. They found that astaxanthin “was able to completely inhibit the adverse effects of Vioxx on LDL oxidation when added together with Vioxx at an equal concentration.”

Astaxanthin is one of the most common antioxidants found in the red pigment of crustacean shells (crabs, shrimp, krill), and salmon. Astaxanthin has properties that help maintain normal blood pressure levels, help maintain cardiovascular health and has been also been found to possess antioxidant properties.

For the researchers, astaxanthin represents “a pharmacologic approach to block the oxidizing effects of Vioxx.”

Source: Mason P. Rofecoxib Increases Susceptibility of Human LDL and Membrane Lipids to Oxidative Damage: A Mechanism of Cardiotoxicity. J Cardio Pharm 2006 Jun; 47(Supplement 1): S7-S14.

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