HOT-SELLING CELEBREX EXPANDS ADS: PRINT MARKETING EXPECTED TO LINK DRUG'S NAME TO ARTHRITIS TREATMENT

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One of this year's most celebrated drugs moves forward next month with the print phase of its direct-to-consumer campaign.

Monsanto Co. and Pfizer, which jointly market arthritis drug Celebrex, will launch ads in consumer health-oriented and general publications starting in September, according to executives familiar with their plans.

The print effort augments an estimated $25 million TV push that started in May. The marketers have so far run two types of commercials: one unbranded, designed to encourage arthritis sufferers to see their doctors, while the other mentions Celebrex by name but doesn't mention the condition it treats.

PRINT MAY LINK DRUG, ARTHRITIS

The print effort is expected to directly link the drug's name with arthritis treatment; as a result, the marketers would run "brief summary" pages following their ads that include information about side effects.

A Monsanto spokeswoman said she could not provide details on the print effort.

Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, handles Celebrex and could shift the business into a spunoff healthcare unit referred to internally as Leo Health.

Since its January introduction, Celebrex has become the most successful drug launch ever, with $507 million in sales in its first six months. This surpasses Pfizer's Viagra, which last year had $410 million in sales, according to IMS Health.

Celebrex's launch introduced a new class of arthritis drugs referred to as Cox-2 inhibitors designed to treat arthritis without gastric side effects.

In May, the second Cox-2 drug, Merck & Co.'s Vioxx, hit the market, giving Celebrex its first competition. A third Cox-2 drug, Mobic, jointly marketed by Abbott Laboratories and Boehringer-Ingelheim, is expected to receive FDA approval and enter the market early next year. Robert A. Becker Euro RSCG, New York, is Mobic's agency.

VIOXX STRUGGLES TO CATCH UP

As the second entry in the category, Vioxx has struggled to catch up, posting sales of $30.9 million in its first two months on the market, compared with $69 million for Celebrex.

But the Merck drug has yet to launch any widespread DTC advertising in the U.S. Vioxx agency DDB Worldwide, New York, is expected to launch a fully integrated marketing campaign later this year, including TV and print.

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