Ad Effort Comes After Rival Merck Pulls Vioxx off Market

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DETROIT ( -- Less than a month after Merck & Co. pulled anti-arthritis drug Vioxx off the market, Pfizer this morning launched an ad campaign aimed at getting people to ask their doctors about its Celebrex brand.

The comprehensive campaign, from Publicis

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Groupe's Kaplan Thaler Group, New York, began today with print ads in national newspapers, and will roll out to include magazine and TV ads.

The ads come after Merck took Vioxx, a Celebrex competitor, off the market after studies showed taking Vioxx increased the risk of heart attacks.

No comment on spending
Pfizer declined to comment on its ad spending for the new campaign. The pharmaceutical company spent $87 million on Celebrex last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, and $41 million through the first six months of this year.

Pfizer also announced this morning that third-quarter earnings rose 49%, largely on increased sales of Celebrex and cholesterol medication Lipitor.

According to NDC Health Corp., Atlanta, new prescriptions and refills for Celebrex and its sibling medication Bextra rose 78% from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, in the days following Vioxx's removal from the market.

Pfizer defends itself
Pfizer last week took out full-page ads in several national newspapers, telling patients that "for years we've eased your pain, now let us ease your mind." Pfizer has found itself defending Celebrex against suggestions that it is similar to Vioxx. The company has said that three studies it has co-sponsored with the U.S. government found no link between Celebrex and heart disease.

Pfizer said on Monday it will conduct yet another study on Celebrex. The study, which is expected to begin next year, will enroll more than 4,000 patients around the world who have osteoarthritis and had a recent heart attack.

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