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Greg Webb
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Celebrex Securities Fraud Trial to Be Completed in 2014

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A recent New York Times article notes "The importance of Celebrex to Pfizer is indisputable… one of the company’s best selling drugs, racking up more than $2.5 billion in sales… prescribed to 2.4 million patients in the U.S. alone." Pfizer, however, is still involved in one of the longest-running alleged fraud cases in history. Its claim that Celebrex was easier on patients’ stomachs than other drugs prescribed for the same purpose, remains in dispute. In 2000, the results of an earlier year-long trial study of Celebrex were released containing only 6 months of data, and other data was referred to by worthy scientists as having been cherry-picked. Pfizer claims it didn’t intend to deceive anyone by releasing only the partial results of its study on Celebrex and argued that presenting "limited data was legitimate"—because many people taking a comparison drug dropped out of the study skewing the study’s results.

Celebrex is the remaining COX-2 inhibitor drug used frequently for arthritic pain on the market. Vioxx and Bextra were removed from the market in 2004 and 2005 due to heart events and other negative effects in patients taking them. A current Pfizer study on Celebrex that has already taken six years is expected to be completed by May 2014, and is to examine the effects of Celebrex on the heart. At that time, Pfizer will also lose its patent protection for Celebrex, which the NYT article projects will send the drug’s market value tumbling.

The decision by Pfizer (and Pharmacia—which Pfizer eventually purchased) to withhold part of the early study results became public when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the results of the entire study. The release of all the data had a sobering effect on how scientific data continue to be published to-date, and even a spillover effect on the value of Pfizer and Pharmacia’s stocks. There were subsequent lawsuits filed over the possibility that Pfizer and Pharmacia may have misled investors.

Some Pfizer and Pharmacia scientists and employees expressed reservations when the partial study results were released early on. When Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market in 2004, it sent up a red flag for Celebrex’ life expectancy as a viable pain drug. Yet the arguments over the safety and effectiveness of Celebrex continue in the courts, the current trial study results comparing Celebrex to Motrin, Advil and Aleve should be completed in 2014, and the patent expires in 2014. How many more people will have taken Celebrex by that time—and with what results, one wonders?