Celebrex on Trial: A Case Study for Science Research


Julia Chillemi

High School for Environmental Studies, Manhattan


Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2007


Course:  Living Environment (Biology)

Grade: 9th/ 10th

Subject: Scientific Methodology                           


1) SWBAT differentiate scientific knowledge from opinion

2) SWBAT use appropriate terminology to describe the work of scientists

3) SWBAT propose how to systematically approach a problem

4) SWBAT compare and reflect on the work done by scientists in the field

5) SWBAT explain how to systematically approach a problem

6) SWBAT communicate the social responsibility of scientists


Introduction: This multiple-day lesson provides an example of scientific thinking and discussion points regarding how science affects society, both good and bad, depending on the organization of experiments.  It serves as a basis for later applied experimental design activities. 



n      Class sets of Case study handouts: (PDF Format)

a.      Intro to Rheumatoid Arthritis (Part I)

b.      Celebra is born (I)

c.      Celebra on trial in labs and hospitals (Part II)

d.      Comparing Designs & Identifying components (II)

e.      The Missing Step (Part III)

f.        Vioxx [and Celebrex] on trial again (III)

n      Optional:  manipulatives (such as legos) to serve as model macromoelcules

n      Optional:  colored pencils


Discussion starter/ motivation/ “Do Now”: (Should be a review of prior knowledge)

  1) Explain the relationship between observations and inferences.

            2) Make one observation about the first 4 days of school (alter accordingly).

            3) Make one inference about the first 4 days of school (alter accordingly).


Lesson Development:

          There are several ways of organizing these lessons.  The six sections can be used over the course of three class periods or two periods and a homework assignment.  Below is a suggestion for implementation, but feel free to tailor it to your needs or use smaller sections to illustrate individual points:


I.      Set up classroom to accommodate groups of rotating students. 

                    Station A:  Questions 1--> 5

                    Station B:  Q’s 6 --> 8; encourage students to role play using vocabulary

                                           heard in medical settings and/or on TV medical dramas

                    Station C:  Q. 9

                    Station D: Q. 10

                    Station E: Q’s 11 & 12

                    Whole Class Discussion: A & B

II.     Assign for homework or monitored group work

III.    Punctuated Group Work: 

                             Questions 22 --> 25, discuss; Q’s 26 & 27, discuss

                             Whole Class discussion: C & D


Suggested Discussion Points:

1.  RE: Rheumatoid arthritis:

            a. Ask students to define the differences between scientific opinion and scientific fact

                        i. state one scientific opinion in this segment.

ii.  Describe one possible scenario that you think could have led scientists to form this


à “RA may not go away”; observations of patients/ patient complaints

                        iii. state one scientific fact in this segment

iv. Describe one possible scenario that you think could have led scientists to state this


            à “ RA progresses in three stages”; pattern repeatedly seen in patients with this


2. RE: Celebra is born

a. What was Dr. Needleman’ hypothesis? What info. must have been needed to create that  hypothesis?

                        à knowledge of enzymes and prostaglandins, previous research on arthritis, creativity

b.       Do you think a major company would give a researcher a great deal of funding based on his/her own hypothesis, data, and conclusions? Why or why not? 

à needed to look for valid methods and reliable results; increase sample size

3. RE: Celebra, (clinical trials)

            a.  Can a hypothesis ever be proven to be true? Why or why not?

à hypotheses can never be proven to be true, only proven to be clearly false

            b. State a testable hypothesis for this clinical trial

à  Discuss the use of “null” hypotheses when testing cause-and-effect

                        à If a hypothesis says there will be no effect, and there is an effect, then you have the

                             ability to say that there might be a cause and effect relationship

4. RE: Designing experiments

            a. Troubleshoot – what could improve the reliability of the trials?

5. RE: Celebrex on trial, but this time in a courtroom

                                                               i.      Review the decision to remove the product from the market

                                                             ii.      Social implications of mistakes in approach science



Bloom Levels: Knowledge Comprehension, Synthesis, Application, and Evaluation

Science Standards:

9-12 Content Standard A- Nature of Scientific Inquiry

Teaching Standard E- Facilitate collaboration and discussion

Teaching Standard C- Ongoing, multiple forms of assessment