Pfizer shares slump as painkiller trial is halted

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The Independent Online

More Than $30bn was wiped off the value of the world's largest pharmaceuticals company, Pfizer, after it halted a trial of its widely used arthritis painkiller Celebrex and said that long-term use appeared to increase the risk of heart attacks.

More Than $30bn was wiped off the value of the world's largest pharmaceuticals company, Pfizer, after it halted a trial of its widely used arthritis painkiller Celebrex and said that long-term use appeared to increase the risk of heart attacks.

Celebrex, which has been used by 27 million people in the US alone since it was launched in 1999, is in the same class of drug as Vioxx, known as cox-2 inhibitors. Vioxx was withdrawn from the market by Merck in September amid similar safety fears.

Pfizer said it had no plans to withdraw its drug, but a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine from three scientists who have worked on cox-2s called for Celebrex to be prescribed only in exceptional circumstances.

Until yesterday's trial data, Pfizer had claimed Celebrex did not have the same potential side-effects as Vioxx.

The company's shares plunged by as much as 24 per cent at one point before ending down 11 per cent at $25.75 in New York. The drugs sector has come under sustained pressure since the Vioxx withdrawal. Politicians have demanded that companies conduct much more rigorous safety trials and regulators monitor side-effect risks more thoroughly, both developments which will ratchet up costs for the industry.

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