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Eric T. Chaffin
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Xarelto Manufacturers Pay Big Bucks to Feature Celebrity Endorsements

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If you’ve been watching your television lately, you may have seen it. It’s the new advertisement for Xarelto, the anticoagulant currently at the center of over 2,000 lawsuits because of the potential for excessive bleeding injuries.

Manufacturer Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has four prominent celebrities—NASCAR driver Brian Vickers, Saturday Night Live alum Kevin Nealon, NBA star Chris Bosh, and legendary golfer Arnold Palmer—sitting down to discuss their supposed positive experiences using the blood thinner.

Those more familiar with the risks associated with Xarelto are justifiably concerned about the rosy picture presented by these celebrity advertisements.

Celebrity Advertisement for Xarelto Downplays Risks

The celebrities share how effective Xarelto is at reducing the risk of blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism, and how it helps reduce the risk of stroke in people with non-valvular atrial fibrillation. These are conditions for which the FDA approved Xarelto in 2011 and 2012. The celebrities fail to note, however, that some FDA clinical reviewers questioned the drugs approval without additional studies to demonstrate the drug’s safety.

The celebrities go on to talk about how much easier Xarelto is to use than warfarin, the leading anticoagulant for over 50 years. Warfarin requires dietary restrictions and regular blood monitoring. Manufacturers have advertised Xarelto as being a more convenient option, as it doesn’t require dietary changes or blood monitoring—but the celebrities fail to mention that studies have suggested blood monitoring would be wise to help avoid excessive bleeding injuries.

The voiceover on the ad does acknowledge that patients on Xarelto may bruise more easily, and that it may take “longer for bleeding to stop,” but again, it fails to mention that patients taking Xarelto have no option if internal bleeding develops. Whereas those on warfarin may be treated with injections of vitamin K that encourage the blood to clot again, those on Xarelto must just “wait it out,” because there is no antidote to stop the bleeding, which means that bleeding events can be much more dangerous and potentially even deadly.

Xarelto Associated with Hundreds of Reports of Injuries

The Xarelto ad goes on with the celebrities bragging that Xarelto is the number-one prescribed blood thinner in it’s class, which is said to be “a big win.” Plaintiffs who have been hospitalized because of their use of the drug would likely disagree.

Within just a year of being on the market, Xarelto was linked with over 350 reports of adverse events, including severe blood clots in younger patients taking the drug after knee or hip replacement surgery. Experts have questioned the once-a-day dose, as well, noting peaks and troughs in patients’ blood tests that could be alleviated with twice-a-day dosing.

By the time the Institute for Safe Medicine Practices (ISMP) came out with their 2013 QuarterWatch report, Xarelto was associated with nearly 700 adverse event reports, including gastrointestinal bleeding and brain hemorrhaging.

FDA Warns Xarelto Manufacturers to Eliminate Misleading Claims

In 2013, the FDA sent Xarelto manufacturers a warning letter, stating their print advertisement in WebMD magazine was “false or misleading because it minimizes the risks associated with Xarelto and makes a misleading claim.”

Yet the manufacturers have continued to push boundaries when it comes to advertisements, including spending big bucks to hire celebrities to do their talking for them.