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CELEBREX PRESCRIPTIONS DIVE

New prescriptions for Pfizer Inc. pain reliever Celebrex have fallen by more than half since a government-led study linked the drug to an increased risk of heart and strokes two weeks ago.

Celebrex's share of new prescriptions for arthritis drugs sank to 7.9 percent for the week ended Dec. 24, down from 14.2 percent a week earlier. New prescriptions for Celebrex fell 56 percent to 70,760, according to Verispan, a market research firm which gathers information from U.S. pharmacies.

Celebrex is a Cox-2 inhibitor, the same class of drugs as Vioxx, the Merck & Co. pain reliever that was withdrawn from the market in September when a study found it doubled patients' risk of heart attacks and strokes. In October, Pfizer announced two studies showed its other Cox-2 inhibitor Bextra increased the risk of cardiovascular problems in coronary bypass operation patients.

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