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Study Says Celebrex Could Cause Heart Problems

Dec 17, 2004 | CNN Live Today

The drug manufacturer Pfizer says a new study finds an increased risk of heart problems for people taking the popular painkiller Celebrex. We'll have much more on this developing story a little bit later, actually in just a few minutes.

SANCHEZ: Let's get to our other big story now, and it involves Celebrex. It's a pain killer. It's made by Pfizer, and the word is that it could cause heart problems.

Elizabeth's here, Elizabeth Cohen, trying to break this down for us. What are they saying?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pfizer is announcing results of two studies today. So let's take a look at what these results said. The first study was done by the National Cancer Institute, and it found people who were taking Celebrex have a two and a half times higher risk of having some kind of major cardiovascular event. That's the word they use. When you hear that, you think two and a half times higher risk of having a heart attack or having a stroke. Now there was another study done by Pfizer itself, which, of course, makes Celebrex. That study found no increased risk of major cardiovascular event.

Now Pfizer says they have shared the results of these two studies with the Food and Drug Administration. It will be interesting to see if the FDA urges Pfizer to take this drug off the market.

Now Vioxx is another drug that of course we've been hearing a lot about. Vioxx and Celebrex are very similar. The same class of drug. They're both called Cox-2 inhibitors. Vioxx was taken off the market in September because of concerns that it was making people have heart attacks. So it will be interesting to see what happens with Celebrex.

NGUYEN: OK, two studies, two different findings. That's a little confusing.

COHEN: Right. It is a little confusing, and there are a couple of explanations. Here are two thoughts on it. One, in the National Cancer Institute study, patients were taking the high dose and the low dose of Celebrex, both doses that people take out in the real world. They were taking the higher dose and the lower dose. In the Pfizer study, which found no problems, they were only taking the lower dose. That is one explanation.

Now some people will say, some people who have been critical of drug companies will say, well, gee, it's the company's own study that found no problems. How was that study designed? How many people were involved in that study? Those are all things that will be interesting to hear about it.

SANCHEZ: So if you're watching on television and you're taking this Celebrex, what do you do? Stop taking? Call your doctor?

COHEN: Call your doctor. You never want to just stop taking a drug that your doctor has prescribed to you, unless it's been pulled off the market. Celebrex has not been pulled off the market. You might want to talk to your doctor. And you might want to talk about dose, because again, the study with the problems people were taking the high dose, and also there were people in the study taking the low dose, so you definitely want to talk to your doctor about that. And of course, it's, you know, it's used for pain. There are a lots of other options out there for pain.

NGUYEN: All right, consult your doctor.

COHEN: That's right.

NGUYEN: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

SANCHEZ: There's no question this story is going have a medical impact, but it's also financial.

COHEN: And a business impact, yet, because stock of Pfizer has been halted so far today.

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