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Case Title:

Celebrex and Vioxx: Perils of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising

Publication Year : 2006

Authors: Sagar Chakravarthy

Industry: Health Care


Case Code: CSR0029B

Teaching Note: Not Available

Structured Assignment: Not Available

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Till September 2004, Celebrex, a global brand of Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company for anti-arthritis drugs and Vioxx, a global rival brand of Merck, the world's third-largest pharmaceutical company were doing well all over the world. These brands occupied the top positions in Direct-to-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) expenditure. Through massive ad campaigns, they created a global brand awareness in a short time. Their communication pitched high on gastrointestinal safety. What these two brands did not talk about was the cardiovascular safety profile. Following the analysis of three-year's data in a post-marketing study, it was shown that Vioxx doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients, who took it for at least 18 months. On 30 September, 2004 Merck announced that, Vioxx would be voluntarily withdrawn by Merck, worldwide.

There was an imbroglio without any clearcut strategy of vindication and revival of the brand image. Had the healthcare companies thought of this peril? Was there any way to recover from the bad case of Public Relation? Was Pfizer’s move to continue with Celebrex in the market, a right decision or should it have gone the Merck way? Was massive DTCA, focusing only on the benefits of the drug, a right strategy to increase the company’s market share fast?

Pedagogical Objectives:

  • To elucidate the malpractices of advertising and communication by industry giants
  • To highlight the absence of effective crisis communication strategy for brands and industry as a whole.

Keywords : Corporate Social Responsibility Case Study Advertising, Celebrex, Vioxx, Merck Pharmaceutical, Healthcare, Pfizer Direct to Consumer, Social Responsibility Business Ethics, Crisis Communication, Brand, Public Relations, Prescription Drugs

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