Company news: Pfizer; Celebrity-awareness-palooza

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A series of emails published by the New York Times Monday is bringing renewed attention to the Cox-2 inhibitor category. This time it's not about heart safety, an issue that caused Pfizer and Merck to pull Bextra and Vioxx from the shelves in the mid-to-early 2000s. Instead the renewed interest is over indications of internal disputes regarding claims that Pfizer's drug Celebrex was easier on the stomach than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen and diclofenac. The emails center around data that was published at a medical conference and were part of a larger securities lawsuit against Pfizer. The correspondence conveys a back-and-forth in which researchers pick apart Celebrex's GI data. “The GI ms is apologetic, weak and non convincing," wrote Mona Wahba, of Pfizer's Global Research and Development group, in a 2001 email, "since [Celebrex] did not show statistical difference from Diclo even using the combined endpoint. We are also cherry picking the data (using 6 m as study duration)." She was referring to the plan to highlight data from 6 months as opposed to 12. In another email, Pharmacia associate medical director Emilio Arbe said the decision to focus on data from 6 months is a matter of highlighting more attractive numbers. This is not the first time Celebrex has garnered attention. The drug, which has brought in sales of $2.4 to $2.5 billion over the past three years, was also subject to federal scrutiny over marketing practices, alongside Pfizer drugs Bextra, Geodon, Zyvox and Lyrica.

Amgen launched an awareness campaign dubbed “Chemotherapy: Myths or Facts” and fronted by actress Maura Tierney, who was diagnosed with and treated for an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2009. The campaign, based at chemomythsorfacts.com, aims to dispel myths and misperceptions about chemo. Tierney is best known for playing Abby on ER. While the campaign is unbranded, Amgen's products include Neulasta, which helps to ward off infection in patients undergoing chemo for certain cancers.

Janssen is promoting awareness of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with a song by American Idol finalist Casey Abrams. Dubbed “Chip on Your Shoulder,” the song and accompanying music video, which are housed at IBDIcons.com (viewable upon registration), were inspired by Abrams's personal experience with the disease. The site is unbranded, though ticking a box on the registration form sends viewers to a Janssen questionnaire that promises “information about products and services.” Abrams finished sixth on Season 10 of American Idol, despite flare-ups of his ulcerative colitis, and his debut album drops this week. Janssen products in that category include Remicade and Simponi.

Celebuchef Chef LaLa signed on for a Merck food and health tour aimed at educating Hispanics in Southern California about type 2 diabetes and encouraging healthy lifestyle changes. Dubbed Sazone Su Salud, or Season Your Health, the tour features live cooking demonstrations in Bakersfield, LA and Orange County. Merck's diabetes portfolio includes Januvia and Janumet.
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