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GP predicts two-tier profession

The pharmaceutical industry watchdog has publicly reprimanded Pfizer for misleading GPs on the cardiovascular safety of celecoxib (Celebrex).

Pfizer was rebuked for leaving promotional material in GPs' surgeries suggesting celecoxib was 'a cox-2 that keeps the heart in mind'.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's code of practice authority said it was 'extremely concerned' with Pfizer's behaviour and found it guilty of 10 breaches covering two clauses of the industry code.

The authority found Pfizer had made a 'broad, unqualified claim' about the safety of celecoxib in the leavepiece left with GPs by company reps.

The authority concluded: 'The panel was extremely concerned that the leavepiece implied there was no need to worry about the cardiovascular tolerability profile of Celebrex. This was not so. In the panel's view the leavepiece was such that patient safety could be compromised. This was a serious matter.'

The panel reported Pfizer to the appeal board, which ordered it to attempt to recall the leavepiece and to write to GPs with details of the case. The ABPI board decided

Pfizer should be 'publicly reprimanded' over its conduct.

Pfizer admitted it had been found in breach of the ABPI code of practice. 'As a result, the material is no longer in use,' the company said.

The case arose from a complaint made last July by MSD, manufacturer of rival cox-2

rofecoxib (Vioxx). Vioxx was withdrawn in September because of an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency issued prescribing advice on all other cox-2s in December, advising GPs to switch patients with ischaemic heart disease or cerebrovascular disease to an alternative treatment.

In a separate move, the MHRA this week asked Pfizer to issue a correction on a promotion for its cox-2 parecoxib (Dynastat) that contained out-of-date prescribing information and appeared in Hospital Pharmacy Europe (March/ April). Pfizer said it had co-operated on the matter.

Dr Charles Simenoff, member of the GPC prescribing subcommittee and a GP in Manchester, said: 'I view most promotional material with healthy cynicism.'

By Nerys Nairon

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