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A Suit Cites Second Med For Arthritis

Oct 11, 2004 | New York Daily News First it was Vioxx, now Celebrex.

A Floral Park man is suing Pfizer, claiming the pharmaceutical manufacturer's anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex caused him to suffer an irregular heartbeat.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Nassau Supreme Court by Robert Roesler, 61, a disabled carpenter, comes in the wake of health warnings that the arthritis drug Vioxx causes heart problems.

Drug maker Merck & Co. pulled Vioxx from the market last month after finding it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. Lawsuits quickly followed.

Both drugs are in the same class of medications, called Cox-2 drugs, that are used to treat joint pain.

In advertisements last week, Pifzer touted Celebrex as a safer alternative to Vioxx. Saying "We want to ease your mind," the Pfizer ads explained Celebrex and Vioxx had different chemical structures. Sullivan deemed the ads deceptive, noting that some medical experts are now also questioning the safety of Celebrex and Pfizer's newer drug Bextra.

In a report released Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientists suggest Celebrex - and other medications in its class - may be linked to heart risks because they behave the same as Vioxx.

Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, a University of Pennsylvania cardiologist who led the studies, called on the federal Food and Drug Administration to change its advice to reflect the new safety concerns.

The attorney said his client was prescribed Celebrex by a doctor in 1999 to treat knee pain, and shortly after he began experiencing atrial fibrillations. "For a year and a half, he was walking around with an irregular heartbeat," Sullivan said.

The condition disrupted Roesler's life, making him leery of exercising or pursuing other physical activities.

Pfizer spokesman Bryant Haskins said he could not speak about the lawsuit because the company had not yet been served, but he defended Celebrex, saying its data shows that the drug does not pose the same risks as Vioxx.

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