Questions remain over COX-2 advertisingAlthough an FDA Advisory panel has voted for Merck's Vioxx and Pfizer's Celebrex and Bextra to stay on the market, the question remains of whether advertising will resume for the drugs.
Most members of the panel on the painkillers said during three days of meetings last week they were against a return of commercials for the drugs, or wanted tough restrictions on ads if the drugs remain available.
"Many on the committee, including myself, were trying to send a very strong message that any kind of direct-to-consumer advertising for these drugs would be inappropriate," panel chairman Alastair Wood, a professor at Vanderbilt University, told the Wall Street Journal.
A Merck spokesman told the newspaper it was premature to speculate on the return of Vioxx and therefore whether there would be any advertising of the drug.
John LaMattina, president of Pfizer global research and development, told the Journal, "If direct-to-consumer is allowed with all the caveats we would have to give, I think that's appropriate."
Many pharmaceutical companies have also experimented lately with grass-roots campaigns, according to Laura Schoen, partner and president of the global healthcare practice at Interpublic's Weber Shandwick. She told the Journal she expects COX-2 makers will go that route in the coming months, using town hall style meetings at which physicians and nurses can offer patients more information on the drugs' benefits and better explain their risks.
Mel Sokotch, a former director of consumer health practice at Interpublic Group's Foote Cone & Belding, told the Journal "They must test to see if the negativity from the black box warning outweighs the benefit of communicating the positive."
Black box warnings haven't stopped Johnson & Johnson's from advertising its rheumatoid arthritis treatment Remicade despite the drug's warning labeling concerning its elevated risk of tuberculosis infections in patients.