December 31, 1998 is when Celebrex first came to market. It was one of the first medications that selectively inhibits COX-2, which helps relieve arthritis pain and inflammation as well as acute pain in adults. COX-2 is an enzyme that is involved in causing inflammation and pain in parts of the body where there is arthritis or injury. Pfizer was the firm that brought it to market.
I’m not a scientist and this is not meant at all to be a technical post. I didn’t know a thing about COX-2 when I first became aware of Celebrex, or Vioxx, which was another COX-2 inhibitor that was pulled off the market in 2004. All I knew in 1999 is that I was recently diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and was in severe pain at all times. I distinctly remember the first night I ceased taking 800 mg motrin pills in favor of Celebrex. I recall getting up it the middle of the night and the pain was definitely less severe. I knew it made a difference. It has been the one constant medication I’ve taken since being diagnosed. Initially I was taking 200 mg 2 times daily. As I improved, it went to 200 mg once daily and now I take 100 mg once daily.
If I forget to take my Celebrex, about 11am my knees get painfully stiff and “crunchy.” It’s the one medication that I can’t skip. I can skip the methotrextate and the enbrel on occasion without adverse effects, but I need to take Celebrex every day.
I visited my Rheumatologist in January and he gave me a Celebrex co Pay card from Pfizer. He mentioned that Celebrex was now available as a generic. I had renewed my prescription the previous week through my mail order retailer that Blue Cross/Blue Shield insists I use. So when my medication arrived, I saw that I had received the generic, but they had still charged the same $125 copay for 90 days. I called Blue Cross and was told that’s the cost.
Yesterday Blue Cross/Blue Shield sent me a letter stating they would no longer be filling Celebrex prescriptions, but only offering the generic. So I called Blue Cross again and asked about the co pay. It appears that although Blue Cross is getting the benefits of a reduced cost with purchasing a generic, the savings aren’t passed on to me.
This morning I did some research. Pfizer had about $3 Billion in sales in 2013 of Celebrex. It was their 4th largest selling medication. There was some patent litigation in 2014 which Celebrex lost, allowing it to become available in generic form. It’s a big loss for Pfizer, following the patent expiration of some of their other block buster medications including Lipitor in 2011. I also learned from Pharmacycheckerblog.com that the FDA grants marketing exclusivity for a generic to a single drug company for six months, so only two drug companies – the brand name manufacturer and the first generic manufacturer – are competing. As more drug companies enter the market the price will eventually cost a fraction of the brand name counterpart. But that first generic to market will usually only be about 20% cheaper than the brand.
Since the patent expired in June, 2014, there should be several companies that are now manufacturing the generic. My Celebrex generic comes from Lupin Pharmaceuticals and is made in India. And still costs me $125 for my 90 day supply.