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Discussion about Celebrex risks and advantages

This week the New York Times published additional information relating to Celebrex controversies and research.  Celebrex is the only so-called Cox-2 inhibitor pain medication still on the market after Vioxx and Bextra were taken off the market due to perceived safety problems involving increased heart attack and stroke risks.  When previous studies demonstrated that Celebrex was no more effective in relieving pain than existing drugs in Aleve (naproxen), Advil or Motrin (Ibuprofen), its manufacturer, Pfizer, marketed the drug as less likely to produce gastrointestinal problems.  The above pain medications are known to cause stomach difficulties in some patients, depending on use and dosage.

Celebrex and the other Cox-2 inhibitor drugs were introduced in the 1990s.  In 2001, Pfizer released the results from the first half of its clinical trials, claiming that the study proved that Celebrex was "easier on the stomach" than the other drugs.  Executives intentionally did not release data from the second half of the study which called into question the touted results.  The brouhaha this created, when the full results were revealed, led to calls for change in how the FDA approves drugs based on pharmaceutical companies' clinical trials.  Currently, there is no objective research supporting any claim that Celebrex causes fewer serious gastrointestinal side-effects--or improved pain relief.

The NYT quoted internal memoranda from drug company researchers to the effect that "They [a medical conference] swallowed our story, hook, line and sinker..." and describing the presentation of data as "data massage..[for]no other reason than it happens to look better."  Another medical director described the process as "cherry-picking the data."  In any event, the mis-leading and incomplete presentation of data managed to keep Celebrex on the market, where it has accumulated $2.5 billion dollars in sales.  It was prescribed to 2.4 million Americans last year.  In 2005, the company touted a new study to compare the heart risks of Celebrex, however, it turns out the results of that study won't be published until May of 2014---coincidentally the same month that the patent protection for the drug expires (and the sales would plummet because of competing generics). 

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