FDA Persuades Pfizer to Pull Bextra; Says Prescription Painkiller's Risks Outweigh Benefits to Public

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 8, 2005 | Go to article overview
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FDA Persuades Pfizer to Pull Bextra; Says Prescription Painkiller's Risks Outweigh Benefits to Public


Byline: Marguerite Higgins, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday said Pfizer Inc. will pull its painkiller Bextra off the market as the pharmaceutical regulator announced stronger warning labels on other anti-inflammatory drugs, from Celebrex to Advil.

The FDA asked the New York pharmaceutical company late Wednesday to stop selling Bextra because it posed too many risks to benefit the public.

Nearly 12.9 million U.S. prescriptions last year were filled for Bextra, which posted $1.24 billion in 2004 U.S. sales, according to Fairfield, Conn., pharmacy information company IMS Health Inc.

The FDA also asked Pfizer to put a "black box" warning on its leading painkiller, Celebrex, which accounted for 23.8 million prescriptions and $3.3 billion in sales last year.

In addition to the increased risks associated with the anti-inflammatory drug class, reports also linked Bextra to risks for serious skin reactions, the FDA said.

The Bextra pullout comes 27 weeks after Merck & Co. Inc., a Whitehouse Station, N.J., pharmaceutical company, on Sept. 30 recalled its arthritis painkiller Vioxx from store shelves after a study connected the drug to higher risks for heart problems.

The measures are part of labeling changes the FDA requested for other anti-inflammatory medications in the same drug class, which include Bextra, Celebrex and widely used over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen.

The FDA requested that manufacturers of prescription versions in the drug class revise their labels to include boxed warnings that highlight the potential for increased risk of cardiovascular problems and gastrointestinal bleeding.

Additionally, the agency asked companies selling over-the-counter medications in the drug class to revise their labels to include more specific information on potential heart and stomach problems and assistance on how best to use the medicines.

An FDA advisory panel in February examined the safety of the "Cox-2" painkillers that are part of the drug class. Cox-2 painkillers work by targeting and suppressing the body's production of a Cox-2 enzyme, which is linked with pain and swelling.

Pfizer yesterday said it "respectfully disagrees" with the agency's evaluations of the drug. The company said it will explore options to bring Bextra back on the market.

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