NEW YORK: Pfizer has invited the world's three largest marketing holding companies to assemble their strongest PR teams to pitch their cardiovascular franchise.
In addition to Lipitor, Pfizer's cardiovascular unit includes Norvasc, a treatment for hypertension and angina, and Caduet, a dual therapy of Lipitor and Norvasc currently awaiting FDA approval.
Omnicom's Ketchum has had the Lipitor business to itself for the past five years, said Michal Fishman, director of US pharmaceuticals PR for Pfizer. Feinstein Kean Healthcare, a division of Ogilvy PR (WPP), had been working on a project basis on Norvasc and Caduet.
Fishman said the company would not dictate how it wanted the invited holding companies to approach the account.
"We want to see what they come up with," but said that the selected team would have "an understanding of the consumer, and also, a strong foundation in science," she said.
It's unclear how the invited will choose to pitch, as each company will likely have several firms interested in the assignment. While the conglomerates almost always keep their PR shops separate, there is precedent for aligning pros from different firms to pitch for a large assignment. The most recent example of this took place when Omnicom created One Blue in 2001 to service IBM. That entity comprises a team led by Ketchum, with professionals from other Omnicom agencies.
Fishman said, "We are doing this because we think it requires a team approach to maximize the strength of our cardiovascular franchise, and really address all the opportunities of the three brands."
This will be the first time Pfizer has put an entire franchise up for bid for any of its prescription products.
Lipitor has been a staggering success story for Pfizer, as it now banks approximately $8 billion a year in sales as the number-one seller in a highly profitable statin category. Norvasc, Pfizer's second best-selling product after Lipitor, and the fourth best-selling drug in the world, reached $3.8 billion in sales in 2002 and experienced 15% growth in the third quarter of this year. Earlier this month, however, the FDA permitted generic drug-maker Dr. Reddy Laboratories to produce a copycat version of the drug, three years before Norvasc's patent expires.
A new drug application for Caduet was submitted to the FDA in March of this year, and Pfizer has plans to apply for European regulatory approval by the end of 2003.