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    "When many cures are offered for a disease, it means the disease is not curable" -Anton Chekhov

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    Monday, December 20, 2004

    Good-bye, Celebrex: It looks like Pfizer's arthritis drug, Celebrex, is about to go the way of Vioxx:

    Pfizer said yesterday that it would immediately stop advertising Celebrex, its best-selling arthritis pain reliever, to consumers after a study showed that high doses were associated with an increased risk of heart attacks.

    The suspension of advertising, which is indefinite, includes television, radio, newspaper and magazine ads and other promotions to consumers, a Pfizer spokeswoman, Mariann Caprino, said yesterday. Some magazine ads may appear for a few more weeks because of the long lead time of magazine advertising, she said.

    Pfizer appears to have had little choice in deciding to end the advertising campaigns. The Food and Drug Administration said Friday that it was considering regulatory measures that could include severe label warnings or even requiring that the drug be withdrawn in the United States.

    .....Still, Pfizer has no plans to stop selling Celebrex, Pfizer chief executive, Henry A. McKinnell, said in an interview on "This Week," on ABC Television. For many patients, Celebrex works better than other pain medications, Mr. McKinnell said.

    The company will work to inform doctors of Celebrex's potential risks, he said.

    "We're leaving Celebrex on the market because it is an appropriate option for many, many patients," Mr. McKinnell said.

    But George Sard, chairman of Citigate Sard Verbinnen, a crisis communications firm, said Pfizer was making a mistake by trying to keep Celebrex on the market.

    "Pfizer will inevitably have to recall Celebrex," Mr. Sard said, "and I believe they are making a strategic error not doing it immediately. Their current position is untenable - and the price of waiting will be increased legal, financial and reputational costs."

    Pfizer's drug reps have been working hard since the removal of Vioxx from the market to assure physicians that Celebrex is safe and has none of the cardiovascular risk associated with Vioxx. They've also been saying that it will never be taken off the market. Could the company's resistance be due more to pride than sense?

    The "crisis consultant" is right. At this point, the legal risks of prescribing the drug are untenable. It may be a beneficial drug for a subgroup of people, but once the media has been saturated by reports of its risks, no matter how exaggerated those reports may be, patients see it as a harmful drug. I've had far too many patients who are too willing to believe that their estrogen replacement therapy or their Vioxx caused their heart disease rather than their aging vessels. It's impossible to convince them otherwise. It will be the same with Celebrex. And if I can't convince my patients, what chance do I have of convincing a jury?

    UPDATE: Derek Lowe agrees, Celebrex is toast.


    posted by Sydney on 12/20/2004 08:32:00 AM 0 comments


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