Pfizer finds heart risk with Celebrex; drug in same class as Vioxx

Friday, December 17th 2004, 10:13 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Pfizer Inc. says it has found an increased risk of heart problems with patients taking its painkiller Celebrex, a drug that is in the same class as the Vioxx, which was pulled from the market in September because of safety concerns.

Pfizer announced Friday that it found the increased risk in one of two long-term cancer prevention trials, while the other trial showed no increased risk. The company was conducting the trials as part of an effort to find a new application for the drug.

The news sent the stock of the giant pharmaceutical maker plunging in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange, where its shares were down $4.37, or 15 percent, at $24.61.

Celebrex is currently approved for use in the United States for the treatment of arthritis and pain.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration said it was adding a warning to the labels of another Pfizer drug, Bextra, warning of potential heart problems associated with the use of that drug in people who have recently had heart bypass surgery.

Bextra, Celebrex and Vioxx are all in a class of pain drugs called cox-2 inhibitors. The drugs have become popular because of their effectiveness in treating the pain of arthritis and other ailments.

Merck & Co. pulled Vioxx from the market Sept. 30 after a study indicated it doubled the risk of heart attacks and stroke when taken for longer than 18 months.

Studies done five years ago _ when Celebrex and Vioxx were approved _ suggest the same mechanism that inhibits inflammation and makes the drugs easier on the stomach also blocks a substance that prevents heart problems, scientists have said.