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Agency That OK'd Celebrex Doing 'Spectacular Job'

Dec 20, 2004 | Chicago Sun Times The federal drug safety agency is doing a ''spectacular job'' of protecting the public, the White House chief of staff said Sunday. The assessment drew an immediate outcry from a Senate critic who charged that government oversight under the Bush administration has proved ''a catastrophic failure.''

The debate about the effectiveness of the Food and Drug Administration comes days after the agency began advising doctors to consider alternatives to Celebrex, the leading arthritis painkiller, for their patients. A study had shown that the Pfizer Inc. medication increased the risk of heart attack at high doses.

Pfizer said Friday it will leave Celebrex on the market, although the same problems led Merck & Co. in September to withdraw from the market its painkiller Vioxx, a Celebrex competitor.

President Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card, said, ''I would like the FDA to continue to do the job they do.''

Card said, ''They do a spectacular job. When you think about all of the new technologies and the new drugs that are coming into the marketplace, and they have to review them all to make sure that when they come into the marketplace, they live up to the expectation of improving health care.''

That the public is learning about drugs on the markets that ''may not live up to those expectations is a testament to the FDA in how they do their job,'' Card said.

But the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee charged that the administration's record ''on protecting us from harmful prescription drugs is a catastrophic failure.''

Sen. Edward Kennedy said in a statement: ''We need an FDA that looks out for the health of patients and not just the health of the pharmaceutical industry."

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