Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Zombie analgesic

Yup, Pfizer has decided it would be a crime to not to keep raking in the bucks from it's former blockbuster, which ought to be spelled Sellebrex. They've even gone so far as to take out a two and one-half minute long commercial on the ABC nightly news, which makes the claim that SellCelebrex may not pose a higher risk of cardiovascular events than other pain killers. Avenging angel Sidney Wolfe has asked the FDA to ban the ad, in part because of that claim, which is, er, uhh, well, a lie.

Credit where it's due, NBC science correspondent Robert Bazell does a pretty good job with this story here. I know, I know, I'm supposed to bash the corporate media, and for my next post, I plan to do just that, but there's no use doing that if I don't give the occasional example of getting it right.

As Bazell makes clear, there was never any reason for Sellebrex to be a blockbuster drug in the first place. Those ads with the vigorous old folks doing Tai Chi in the park very clearly suggested that it was a superior pain reliever, but it was in fact no better than aspirin -- which by the way is what I take when I have a headache or other transitory pain -- but it cost about 100 times as much. The only argument for anybody taking this stuff in the first place applied only to that very small minority of people who suffer gastrointestinal side effects from aspirin-like drugs -- but now it appears that Sellebrex may not even have a lower risk for those complications, while it is indisputable that it raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes. So, Pfizer is inviting you to die for the privilege of spending 100 times as much money to accomplish the same relief you get from aspirin.

What Bazell does not say, which I will, is that the FDA should not only ban the ads, but should also ban the drug. I say this because they have no legal mechanism for restricting its use to that tiny minority of people who truly cannot take NSAIDS but who have chronic pain and inflammation. When doctors are allowed to prescribe a medication, they can legally prescribe it to anyone, for any reason. That doesn't necessarily make sense, but there it is. And Pfizer is obviously absolutely determined to sell this drug, no matter what, including a willingness to expose themselves to legal liability. So, as long as Sellebrex is legal, they are going to find ways to get doctors to prescribe it. Ergo, ban it. Human life is precious, but your life is the last thing the executives at Pfizer care about, which is pretty obvious since they are trying to kill you for 3 bucks.

Bush's FDA works for the drug companies, of course, so it's feckless for me to write this.

No comments: