Pfizer is continuing its efforts to purge Celebrex (celecoxib) of the association with serious cardiovascular side-effects that has scuppered rival painkillers in the COX-2 inhibitor class.

The US pharmaceutical company is funding the SCOT (Standard Care versus Celecoxib Outcome Trial) study, which will compare the long-term safety and efficacy of Celebrex and traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and diclofenac.

Led by the University of Dundee in partnership with the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, the newly launched trial brings investment of more than £25 million (35 million euros) to Scotland, a coup attributed to the country’s sophisticated electronic patient registration and tracking systems. “Scotland now has one of the best electronic patient record systems in the world,” commented Professor Ian Ford of the Robertson Centre for Biostatistics at Glasgow University. “We can harness the power of the information this gives us to examine medicines in the real-life setting of care within the NHS [National Health Service].”

Some four hundred general practices and 16,000 patients will take part in the three-year trial. Eligible patients must be aged 60 years or over and should already be taking a prescribed NSAID such as ibuprofen or diclofenac for arthritis.

Danish involvement
Also involved are Professor Chris Hawkey, a world opinion leader on the gastrointestinal effects of painkillers based at Nottingham University in England, and Professor Jesper Hallas at the University of Southern Denmark. The reasoning is that Denmark has a similar patient record system to Scotland, so data from that country will serve to verify whether the Scottish results can be generalised to other countries.

“Traditional NSAID drugs can cause bleeding from the lining of the stomach,” Professor Hawkey commented. “Celecoxib is thought to minimise these stomach problems, but we are unclear what treatment is best overall. The record system in Scotland offers a great opportunity to resolve this.”