Celebrex ads could make a TV comeback

DTC ads for Celebrex could return to television as early as this summer pending negotiations underway between Pfizer and the FDA, The Chicago Tribune reports. “We plan to launch new consumer advertising sometime in the second quarter based on the outcome of discussions with the FDA,” Pfizer spokesman Jack Cox, told The Tribune. Cox did not discuss additional details of the TV ads in a report on the newspaper's Web site and was not immediately available when MM&M attempted to reach him at his New York office today. Pfizer yanked its television advertising for Celebrex in the wake of the withdrawal of Merck’s Vioxx in 2004 after studies linked long-term use to cardiovascular risks. An FDA panel later said that painkillers similar to Vioxx, known as COX- 2 inhibitors, also carried the same risks of heart attack and stroke. As a result, Pfizer withdrew its COX-2 drug Bextra from the market in April 2005. Celebrex however remains available to consumers. Last April, a DTC print ad for Pfizer’s Celebrex became a target of criticism for Congress and the consumer group Public Citizen. “While Celebrex has not been pulled from the market, its risk-benefit profile is controversial and I question whether advertising a drug like this to consumers is good for the public health,” US Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, said of the print ad campaign. Global sales of Celebrex jumped 18% in 2006, exceeding $2 billion. Celebrex growth was sharp in contrast to the loss in sales the pain-relief sector experienced in 2005. Global Celebrex sales fell to $1.73 billion, down 48% compared with 2004.