"We continue to expect full-year Celebrex revenues of at least $2 billion, an ambitious target given the ongoing pressures in the arthritis market," Pfizer told shareholders in its Second Quarter 2006 SEC filing.
Notwithstanding the fact that the FDA asked Pfizer not to run ads to promote more use of Celebrex, and that the company previously granted that request, Pfizer is right back at it. In April 2006, it began advertising Celebrex "in alignment with our new Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising principles, highlighting Celebrex's unique clinical profile and benefits," Pfizer wrote in its First Quarter 2006 SEC filing.
Celebrex is a COX-2 selective, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used for pain relief, marketed and sold by Pfizer, Pharmacia, and GD Searle. Over the past several years, these drug makers have been hit by a massive number of lawsuits filed all over the US.
Several putative class actions have been filed by consumers seeking damages from the purchases of Celebrex as a result of Pfizer's deceptive marketing scheme. In September 2005, all of the purchase claims, as well as the product liability personal injury actions, were transferred to Judge Charles R Breyer in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, by the Multi-District Litigation Panel, In Re: Bextra and Celebrex Marketing Sales Practices and Product Liability Litigation, MDL Docket No 1699, No 05-1699, (ND CA)
At the plaintiffs' request, the court allowed the filing of a Purchase Claims Master Celebrex Complaint which includes four claims for relief: (1) RICO; (2) state consumer protection laws; (3) unjust enrichment; and (4) breach of warranty.
The Prescription Access Litigation Project filed a Celebrex class action in California in February 2005, as well as a nationwide case in April 2005, which are included in the MDL proceeding.
PAL plaintiffs allege that, to increase its sales, Pfizer launched a massive deceptive advertising campaign to convince consumers that Celebrex was a premium drug that offered significant benefits over older, cheaper pain relievers. When in fact, PAL alleges, not only did Celebrex offer no safety benefits to the majority of consumers, it actually increased their risk of death from a heart attack or stroke.
According to PAL, in December 2004 and in February 2005, Pfizer disclosed two separate studies showing that Celebrex users have an increased risk of cardiovascular events and that had Pfizer revealed the risks of Celebrex, of which it was aware since 1999, consumers would not have been willing to pay the high price for Celebrex.
PAL alleges that Pfizer convinced consumers to pay a higher price than they would have paid if they had known the risks, if they would have purchased Celebrex at all. The suits seek recovery for consumers who purchased Celebrex at the inflated price made possible only by Pfizer's massive deceptive advertising campaign.
The plaintiffs specifically allege that the marketing scheme was deceptive because Pfizer (1) suppressed data showing the cardiovascular risks associated with Celebrex; (2) falsely claimed that Celebrex caused fewer gastrointestinal side effects than traditional NSAIDs; and (3) falsely claimed that Celebrex provided superior pain relief and safety over traditional NSAIDs.
The plaintiffs maintain that as a result of the marketing success, Pfizer was able to sell Celebrex "at a premium price over NSAIDs and to have it become a standard treatment option as opposed to use of less expensive NSAIDs."
According to the lawsuits, Celebrex sells for $2.53 to $6.45 per day, depending upon the dose, while NSAIDs sell for $0.21 to $0 .31 per day.
The plaintiffs allege that if Pfizer had not engaged in the wrongful marketing, advertising and promotion of Celebrex, they would have paid for other equally effective and less expensive medication.