NAME GAME: Monsanto Moves to Clear Up Celebrex Confusion
Doctors and pharmacists have made at least 95 errors in prescribing the blockbuster Cox-2 inhibitor Celebrex, co-marketed by Monsanto Co. and Pfizer Inc., since the drug hit the market in January -- in part because two similarly named drugs create confusion, the FDA has said. At the urging of the FDA, the two companies agreed to launch an educational campaign to avert mixups of their product with Forest Laboratories' Celexa, a depression treatment, and Warner-Lambert's Cerebyx, an antiseizure drug. Monsanto and Pfizer announced they will advertise in major medical journals "to make sure doctors and pharmacists understand the difference between the similar sounding drugs." Sales representatives will reinforce that message during doctor visits. A Monsanto spokesperson said the company plans to survey doctors and pharmacists later this year to determine whether the campaign has heightened awareness. Although none of the cases so far have resulted in a serious injury or death -- only 22 cases involved a patient actually taking the wrong drug -- the confusion has caused concern. "We are still concerned about the problem," said Jerry Phillips, an FDA official who assesses the risk of drugs on the market, adding, "This is a significant number of errors." The companies have a strong incentive to clear up any confusion. Sales of Celebrex are expected to top $1 billion this year, with an estimated $4 billion in sales by 2002. Observers say changing the name could lead to a dip in sales (Galewitz, AP/Nando Times, 8/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.