Novartis (NYSE: NVS) is getting flak in the media this week for bringing back its pain drug Prexige, including Bloomberg quoting one analyst calling it a "zombie drug."

By strict definition, Prexige has certainly come back from the dead. Novartis even changed its name to Joicela. The pain reliever was approved in Europe, but regulatory authorities there made Novartis take it off the market because of potential liver damage.

But rather than seeing this as a desperate move by the pharma giant, investors should be cheering the comeback. Sure, the regulatory agencies might sever its head and put the zombie out of its misery, but the upside looks worth the risk.

Side effects aren't anything to be shocked about for Joicela, which is a Cox-2 inhibitor -- the same family of drugs that Merck's (NYSE: MRK) Vioxx is in. But the drug didn't have the heart problems associated with Vioxx, and there's still a need for pain relievers that don't cause stomach irritation like Pfizer's (NYSE: PFE) Advil and Bayer's Aleve.

Novartis thinks it's found a way around the liver damage issue by using a generic test to determine if the patient is prone to liver damage. The added trouble will probably keep it from being a front-line treatment, but it might be used in patients for which Pfizer's Celebrex doesn't work. Even with sub-blockbuster sales, it sure looks better than the only other option: throwing the drug in the trash.

Drugs coming back from the dead aren't unheard of. Biogen Idec (Nasdaq: BIIB) and Elan's (NYSE: ELN) Tysabri returned to the market after being pulled because of the risk of a potentially deadly brain infection, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. Interestingly, Biogen and Elan are in the process of developing a companion diagnostic to assess the risk of PML. The test wasn't required to get the drug back on the market, but it should help drive sales further.

Novartis can only hope that Prexige – er, Joicela -- has as much success coming back from the dead as Tysabri has.

Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Elan is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Novartis is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.