Big Pharma Lied About Another Pain Pill

By Jed Bickman 06/25/12

Sound familiar? This time, it's a subsidiary of Pfizer withholding safety evidence on arthritis drug Celebrex.

Butter wouldn't melt.
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Once again, a pharmaceutical company's lies about the safety and effectiveness of its product are revealed to the public ten years too late. Documents reported on by the New York Times show that researchers conducting trials of the arthritis drug Celebrex for a subsidiary of Pfizer "cherry-picked" the data—as one researcher put it in the internal docs—to show that the drug upset the stomach less than the competing brands. As it turns out, the favorable results were selected from the first six months of a year-long study, rather than the whole thing. The disturbing facts were uncovered among a slew of executive emailssuch as one in which an associate medical director at Pharmacia (which was later bought by Pfizer) minimized trial findings for "no other reason than it happens to look better." The documents were released as part of an ongoing securities-fraud case against the company, which has previously included a 2003 lawsuitand heralded a major drop in Pharmacia's stock value. Although this obfuscation might have less dire consequences than Purdue Pharma's marketing of the painkiller OxyContin as "less addictive" than competing brands—helping to spark the worst prescription drug addiction epidemic in history—it's a timely reminder that companies like Pfizer and Purdue have dual allegiances: to their patients and to their bottom lines. Celebrex has made its manufacturer over $2.4 billion.  

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Jed Bickman is a journalist and copywriter living in the greater New York City area. He is the associate editor at The New Press. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.