With the soaring prices of prescription medications, one would hope that the drugs we purchase are actually helpful in fighting the ailments they are developed to better than any other prescription. Not only this, but one would even be likely to assume that these medications would not actually be detrimental to a consumer’s health. It just seems as if that would be counterintuitive.
However, with a number of lawsuits against Merck’s Vioxx still in the back of our minds, the American Heart Association has issued new guidelines for the distribution of Pfizer’s drug Celebrex.
Celebrex, an anti-inflammatory painkiller usually prescribed for arthritic patients, like Vioxx is a COX-2 inhibitor and has been suspected as having potential links to coronary complications in some patients. Vioxx and G. D. Searle & Co.’s Bextra, also a COX-2 inhibitor, have both been withdrawn from the pharmaceutical market entirely; however, Celebrex, which operates on the same chemical principles, still is available. The American Heart Association urges physicians to prescribe the drug with caution, recommending it be used as the final option for treatment.
However, in a pill popping society, not only are physicians likely to prescribe a drug like Celebrex very readily, but patients are likely to request to be put on such a drug as a quick fix thanks to catchy jingles and visions of climbing mountains, playing with grandchildren, and enjoying life projected in the advertising media.
For a drug like Celebrex to be allowed to remain on the market is entirely unethical. It is clear that COX-2 inhibitors have detrimental cardiovascular effects on some patients, and that alone should be enough reason to remove Celebrex from the market, as Vioxx and Bextra have been.
While it is understandable that drug companies are eager to push their products to consumers quickly, as much of their sacred patent time is eaten up by Food and Drug Administration testing before market approval, pharmaceutical companies must take into account that their products are unlike any others. When targeting issues of health, companies should understand that consumers are easily swayed and looking for an easy fix to their physical suffering.
For a drug like Celebrex to be left on the market, with or without guidelines, is irresponsible when it’s clear that what makes it effective also puts patients at serious terminal risk. While it is neither fair to the consumer to leave dangerous medications on the market, nor is it fair to pharmaceutical companies to rush them into putting unsafe products on the market, the best solution seems this: extend patent law. While this would allow pharmaceuticals to monopolize drug formulas for some time, it would alleviate some pressure to put unsafe drugs on the market, and the issue of better health care coverage could then be addressed.