Safety Fears Prompt US Drug Firm to Pull Ads for Pain Killer

20 December 2004

The American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is to halt all consumer advertising for its drug Celebrex.

A US government sponsored study has found high doses of the arthritis pain relief medication increases the risk of heart attack in some patients.

Pfizer will pull all commercials on TV and radio and all press ads, although it does not intend to withdraw the drug from the market. Consumer advertising for Celebrex is handled by Publicis' New York-based Kaplan Thaler Group. Ad spend for the product this year was around $70 million (€52m, £36m)

The regulatory body, the Food and Drug Administration, says it is considering warnings on Celebrex packaging and the company says it will work to inform doctors who prescribe the drug about its potential risks.

But Pfizer ceo Henry McKinnell remains bullish saying: "We're leaving Celebrex on the market because it is an appropriate option for many, many patients."

The worries over the safety of Celebrex come in the wake of rival Merck's high profile withdrawal from the market of its pain killer Vioxx. It had gained FDA approval and was also expensively marketed to consumers.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff