Recently released emails and other internal documents suggest the Pfizer Corporation intentionally withheld key safety information related to the company’s pain relief drug Celebrex. With annual worldwide sales in excess of $2.5 billion, the drug is one of Pfizer’s best selling products. Last year, Celebrex was prescribed to about 2.4 million people in the United States alone. Celebrex is the last of the COX-2 inhibitor pain relief drugs on the market. Other such pain drugs, including Vioxx, were removed from pharmacy shelves worldwide over reported safety issues and concerns.
The incriminating documents were unsealed by a federal judge in a securities fraud case against Pfizer brought by company shareholders. The documents tend to demonstrate that Pfizer officials decided to withhold important study data from the public. Company executives reportedly began analyzing ways to attack safety study results before at least one research study was completed. The company also allegedly ignored warnings from employees and outside consultants to disclose the fact that Pfizer was relying on incomplete safety data.
As prior studies tended to demonstrate Celebrex was no better at relieving pain than other common drugs such as ibuprofen, Celebrex’s chief benefit was the drug’s purported ability to relieve pain without causing stomach upset. One email from a company research director to a fellow employee expresses happiness after learning attendees at a large medical conference “swallowed” Pfizer’s story that the drug was safer on patient stomachs than other drugs on the market “hook, line, and sinker.” Pfizer, however, reportedly failed to alert the audience that the company only presented the results of a portion of the study.
Internal emails suggest the company chose to massage data and cherry pick results in an effort to make Celebrex look safer. Pfizer officials stated the company had no intent to deceive the public regarding the drug’s safety and claimed the drug’s track record of safety speaks for itself. According to Pfizer, approximately 33 million patients in the U.S. have taken the drug. Still, there is reportedly no clinical proof Celebrex is less likely to harm a patient’s stomach than other pain relief drugs. Pfizer’s decision to withhold safety data was made public in 2001 when the federal Food and Drug Administration released the entire results of the stomach safety study.
In 2004, Vioxx, manufactured by the drug company Merck, was withdrawn from the market after safety studies linked it to an increased risk of heart attacks. Some of the Vioxx safety studies also suggested using Celebrex increased a participant’s risk for heart complications. In response to such concerns, Pfizer began a now six-year-old research study designed to evaluate Celebrex’s effect on the heart. The study is not scheduled to conclude, however, until May 2014. That is the same month the drug’s patent will expire and Celebrex sales are expected to plummet.
Potential Celebrex and Vioxx lawsuits are currently being evaluated throughout the United States due to a reportedly higher risk of heart attacks and other health complications such as Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. If you or a loved one experienced heart, gastrointestinal, or other medical complications while taking a COX-2 inhibitor pain relief drug, you should contact a skilled Texas personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
If you experienced health complications related to taking a prescription medication, call Carabin & Shaw toll free at (800) 862-1260 today. Our experienced San Antonio personal injury law firm assists individuals who were hurt by a pharmaceutical company’s product. At Carabin & Shaw, our lawyers work hard to maximize the compensation you receive for your injuries. We are available to assist injured clients throughout the State of Texas including Laredo, Beeville, Beaumont, Austin, El Paso, Rockport, McAllen, San Antonio, and Seguin. To schedule a free initial consultation with a knowledgeable attorney, please contact Carabin & Shaw through our website.
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In Documents on Pain Drug, Signs of Doubt and Deception, by Katie Thomas, New York Times