You can always count on drug companies for spontaneous, unintentional humor.

You can always count on drug companies for spontaneous, unintentional humor.

A recent Reuters Health report notes that Pfizer has started running TV ads for the arthritis painkiller Celebrex. More than two years ago, Pfizer pulled all TV advertising for Celebrex when Vioxx (the primary competitor of Celebrex) was suddenly yanked off the market for safety concerns.

Now, after a couple of years lying low, Celebrex commercials are back on the air – along with some controversy.

Representatives for Public Citizen – a consumer advocacy group – have written a letter of complaint to the FDA, charging that the new ads purposely confuse consumers. It seems the current ad campaign suggests that heart risks associated with Celebrex are no different than the heart risks linked to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Celebrex is a COX-2 inhibitor, which, technically, is an NSAID. But in spite of the fact that the FDA requires a warning that all NSAIDs increase the risks of heart attacks and strokes, NSAIDs risks in general are not as severe as those of COX-2 inhibitors, according to the American Heart Association.

In response to the Public Citizen letter (here’s where the fun starts) a spokesperson for Pfizer told Reuters Health, “What we are trying to convey through the ad is that all prescription NSAIDs carry the same warnings. A warning is different than a risk.”

Riiiight. Just because there’s a black box warning, that shouldn’t lead anyone to think there’s an actual, you know, RISK. That black border? Oh, that’s just for decoration. No need to be ALARMED or anything!


“Consumer Group Says Celebrex Ad Downplays Risks” Kim Dixon, Reuters Health, 4/10/07,