US drug giant Pfizer will immediately and indefinitely stop advertising its painkiller Celebrex to consumers in the wake of research linking high doses to increased heart attack risk, The New York Times reports. 

Some magazine advertisements may appear for a few more weeks owing to the long lead time in magazine advertising, Pfizer spokeswoman Mariann Caprino told the newspaper.

We discussed it with the FDA and we all concurred that it was the appropriate step, she said.

Pfizer will continue marketing Celebrex, its best-selling arthritis pain reliever, to doctors, she said.

Pfizer said last Friday that a trial had found a sharp rise in heart attacks for patients using Celebrex but that it would not immediately withdraw the treatment.

The company spent $US71 million ($93 million) advertising Celebrex to American consumers in the first nine months of 2004, the paper said.

Pfizer also deploys thousands of sales representatives to doctors offices.

Celebrex is approved in the United States for the treatment of arthritis and pain at recommended doses of 100 milligrams to 200 milligrams daily for osteoarthritis and 200 milligrams to 400 milligrams a day for rheumatoid arthritis.

A study into the use of Celebrex to prevent benign tumors, or adenomas, showed patients taking 400 milligrams and 800 milligrams of Celebrex daily had an approximately 2.5-fold increased risk of major cardiovascular problems compared with patients on a placebo, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering regulatory action and in the meantime is advising doctors to lower the dose or consider alternative medications for their patients.

Celebrex is used by 26 million people, according to Pfizer, and is the latest COX-2 type pain drug to face controversy.

Vioxx, made by the rival Merck and Co, was withdrawn in September because of an increased risk of heart attacks.



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