The US Food and Drug Administration is advising doctors to consider alternatives to pain reliever Celebrex in the wake of a study that showed it increased the risk of heart attack and strokes at high doses.

Pfizer Inc. said on Friday that it would leave Celebrex on the market, although the same problems led Merck & Co. to withdraw its painkiller Vioxx from the market in September.

Were leaving open all regulatory decisions as we move forward. But we do not have a decision on the fate of the product, Acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford said Friday.

We do have great concern about this product (Celebrex) and the class of products. Crawford said doctors should think about other types of drugs to help patients relieve pain.

Doctors said they were already inundated with calls from nervous patients and were pledging to curtail their use of the drug. The disclosure sent Pfizers stock tumbling yesterday amid fears it would cripple sales of what had been the most-prescribed drug for treating arthritis.

Shares of Pfizer, the worlds largest pharmaceutical maker, plunged $3.23 (euro2.43), to close at $25.75 (euro19.38) on the New York Stock Exchange. The decline wiped out almost $25 billion (euro19 billion) of Pfizers market value.

Both Celebrex and Vioxx are a type of drug called cox-2 inhibitors. Vioxx was pulled from the market in September because it doubled patients risk of heart attack and stroke.

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What is Celebrex? Celebrex is in a group of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)....

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