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Drug doubts

From Mary Snow

Pzifer said it has no plans to pull the drug from the market.
Wolf Blitzer Reports
Pfizer Incorporated

NEW YORK (CNN) -- First Vioxx, now a new study alerts people to possible problems with fellow painkiller Celebrex. These are just one class of drugs. There have also been concerns raised recently about other prescription drugs, including the use of antidepressants for teenagers. Will this trigger a backlash?

Drug giant Pfizer said Friday that it had no plans to pull the popular painkiller Celebrex off the market despite data showing that patients using the drug in a long-term cancer study had an increased cardiovascular risk.

Ads like one that encourages viewers to "Ask your doctor about Celebrex. Take control of your joint pain with the proven strength of Celebrex" helped make the drug popular.

Analysts project sales of the drug will generate roughly $3.4 billion worldwide this year.

While announcements like the one about Celebrex are worrisome, one doctor says drug companies are not to blame:

"The drug company is no more responsible for our health than the fast food industry is for the quality of our diet," says Dr. John Abramson of Harvard University.

Abramson, the author of "Overdo$ed America," says the real responsibility pharmaceutical companies have is to generate profits.

And the industry is growing.

Last year, Americans spent an estimated $216 billion on prescriptions, approximately an 11.5 percent increase over a year.

Critics say with profits driving the marketing, health takes a back seat.

"The FDA is not doing a good job protecting people from dangerous drugs. Part of the reason is that the FDA gets funding directly from the drug industry and is much kinder to the drug industry than it is protective of the public health," says Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen, which describes itself as a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization.

It lists 180 drugs it believes are not safe. It wants to see more congressional oversight of the drug industry -- an industry that some doctors say is having an effect in their offices.

"There has been a trend to patients distrusting both the pharmaceutical company, the FDA and sometimes their physicians," says Dr. Alan Delchario, who practices in New York.

Some patients are thinking twice about what's in their medicine cabinets.

"I'm not a person who takes medication easily and when something like this happens, I ... see I was right," says Luisa Contreras.

But doctors say the danger of a possible backlash against the pharmaceutical industry is that people might not take the medicine they need.

Abramson says, "I think it's very important for people not to stop taking prescription medicine without talking to their doctors."

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