GlaxoSmithKline places its HIV business up for review

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC: GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is giving the rest of the industry a shot at its HIV product portfolio.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC: GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is giving the rest of the industry a shot at its HIV product portfolio.

An undisclosed number of firms has been invited to pitch for the drug franchise, which carries a significant price tag. Ketchum and The Zeno Group are understood to be among the agencies pitching.

GSK would not disclose any details about the review process. "All our agency dealings are confidential," said Karen Collins, director of communications.

Collins would not say how many drugs would fall under the account. Incumbent firm Public Communications Inc. (PCI) declined to comment about the review, but told Medical Marketing & Media (MM&M) that it would not repitch. PRWeek and MM&M are both publications of Haymarket Media.

"We are under contract and can't discuss anything further," said PCI's Beth Schlesinger, who has been listed as the media contact on press releases as far back as 2000.

HIV therapies are a robust area for GSK. It currently markets seven HIV products, including Combivir and Trizivir, two of the most commonly prescribed drugs in this category.

US sales of HIV therapies rose 8% in the first quarter of this year, according to GSK's financial report.

GSK is the market leader in this category, but Bristol-Myers Squibb and Abbott Laboratories present stiff competition.

GSK's pipeline currently also includes four investigational compounds that are moving through clinical trials. In addition, the company is awaiting US approval for a combination tablet, which has already been approved in Europe.

PCI worked with GSK on the first-ever campaign to use a celebrity to promote an HIV drug.

In 2002, basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, who is perhaps the best known face of HIV, partnered with GSK for a disease-awareness campaign targeting black men.

HIV is also a significant component of GSK's corporate social responsibility efforts, which include donating drugs to developing countries.

Although all companies that make HIV drugs have faced backlash from activists over pricing concerns, GSK, as the category leader, has been under particularly heavy fire.

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