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Rx market is subject to constant change.

NEW YORK -- A new marketing initiative by Pfizer Inc. has reintroduced Celebrex to the public, while the Food and Drug Administration has ordered Zelnorm, a medication for irritable bowel syndrome, off the market and approved a new diabetes drug, changing the overall competitive landscape of major prescription medications.

Pfizer has launched a 150-second television commercial for Celebrex, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that has been missing from television for more than two years because of safety concerns about medications in its class. Pfizer halted advertising of Celebrex soon after Vioxx, a similar arthritis drug manufactured by Merck & Co., was withdrawn from the market in 2004.

Although the FDA had cited Pfizer for downplaying the risks of Celebrex, the drug has remained on the market.

The new Celebrex commercial, which urges consumers to "understand the risks, see the benefits," of the drug, is meant to dispel confusion in the minds of consumers between Celebrex and Vioxx. Sales of Celebrex dropped nearly 50% after the market withdrawal of Vioxx, although it has recovered somewhat since then, according to USA Today.

The lengthy ad explains the risks of the drug, yet also points out that such NSAIDs as prescription ibuprofen and naproxen carry similar risks. In arthritis medications Celebrex ranks behind ibuprofen and naproxen.

In a similar replay of the Vioxx saga, the FDA withdrew Zelnorm, manufactured by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., last month because of concerns by health department officials that it might cause heart attacks and strokes. In 29 studies 13 out of 11,614 patients given the drug had heart problems and one died. Only one patient of the 7,031 who were given placebos had similar problems.

According to a report in The New York Times, executives at the drug maker have questioned the agency's decision and said it would continue to market the drug in Europe. Novartis has advertised the drug heavily. Last year Zelnorm topped $561 million in sales, up 34% from 2005.

Merck won FDA approval this month to sell Janumet, a pill to treat type 2 diabetes. The medication combines Januvia, which was approved in the United States last year, with an older drug, metformin. At about $5 a pill, Janumet will be available for sale this month, according to The new drug may help Merck compete for a larger share of the $17 billion market for diabetes treatments. Analysts expect Januvia and Janumet to have combined annual sales of $2 billion by 2010.

Januvia is being marketed as an adjunct to diet and exercise to improve blood sugar control in adult patients with type 2 diabetes who are not adequately helped by other treatments.

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Title Annotation:MERCHANDISING; pharmaceutical industry
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 16, 2007
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