New DTC ad for Celebrex under fire

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A new DTC print ad for Pfizer’s Celebrex has become a target of criticism for Congress and the consumer group Public Citizen. Full-color ads that first appeared last week in US magazines feature an older man walking up stairs at a baseball stadium holding a young boy’s hand. The text reads: “52 steps won’t keep you from taking him out to the ball game.” Smaller print warns the drug may raise the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients. “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, told Bloomberg News. Sidney Wolfe, director of health research, said in a published report, “‘Public health be damned’ is basically what this amounts to.” Sales of Celebrex, a drug in the same COX-2 class as Merck’s withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, plummeted almost 50% to $1.73 billion in 2005 after the FDA urged Pfizer to halt all Celebrex advertising in December 2004. Pfizer spent $117 million promoting Celebrex in the US, according to data from Nielsen-Monitor Plus. Worldwide sales of Celebrex totaled $491 million for the first quarter of 2006.

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