Shops involved are Cline, Davis Mann, New York Abelson-Taylor, Chicago; WPP Group's Ogilvy Mather, New York and Omnicom Group's Merkley Newman Harty, New York, the people said.
Novartis declined to comment.
Professional-marketing shop Abelson is expected to find a consumer agency to partner with. CDM may handle both areas, while the other two shops are expected to find professional shops to join with in the pitch.
The drug is expected to be the fifth Cox-2 on the market following two each by Pfizer/Pharmacia and Merck.