Celebrex Ready To Bow

FDA Clears Way for Burnett’s $50 Mil. Effort
CHICAGO–The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s nod for a new prescription painkiller developed by G.D. Searle sets the stage for a major direct-to-consumer campaign–perhaps as high as $50 million–for the drug from Leo Burnett.
Burnett was awarded creative duties on Celebrex in March [Adweek, Mar. 23], but the account was dormant pending FDA approval. Its Starcom Media Services unit won media duties in June. With last week’s advisory recommendation, Searle is expected to bring the drug to market as soon as the first quarter of 1999. Sources said Searle will spend heavily on TV and print to establish the brand for what will be–in a brief window–the only entry in a new class of pain relievers.
Searle will “advertise the hell out of it” to take advantage of Celebrex’s short-lived category exclusivity, said one source close to the company.
Targeted primarily at the estimated 13 million Americans who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, Celebrex is the first of the new “Cox-2 inhibitors,” so named because they work against the cyclooxygenase enzyme that triggers inflammation and pain. They are considered a safer alternative to ibuprofen and other pain relievers that can cause stomach ulcers in large doses.
Industry estimates of Searle’s first-year sales of Celebrex have been as high as $1 billion.
What will drive Searle’s ad spending, sources said, is the knowledge that rival Merck & Co. recently filed an application for the FDA to consider its Cox-2 drug, Vioxx, putting it about six months behind Searle.
Agency officials directed inquires to Searle and parent Monsanto, which could not be reached for comment.
Burnett already has two big DTC accounts: Hoechst, Marion Roussel’s Allegra allergy medication, worth $65 million, and Eli Lilly & Co.’s Prozac anti-depressant, backed by $25 million in the first half of 1998, per Competitive Media Reporting.