Weber Shandwick secures Pfizer brief

NEW YORK: Pfizer has appointed Weber Shandwick to handle PR for the US and European launches of its heart failure treatment Inspra.

Manning Selvage & Lee and Ruder Finn also pitched for the contract, which is Weber Shandwick’s second from Pfizer within a month. The company has also appointed the agency to handle the global account for its erectile-dysfunction treatment, Viagra (PRWeek, 31 October).

Pfizer acquired the rights for Inspra – a congestive-heart failure treatment – when it bought Pharmacia earlier this year.

Inspra received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for hypertension in September last year, but Pfizer decided not to market it, waiting instead for the FDA to approve the medicine for heart failure as well. This approval came last month.

Unlike the Viagra business, which is run by WS’s consumer marketing group, work on Inspra will be led by the agency’s healthcare practice.

Regarding Pfizer’s decision to market Inspra for congestive heart failure over hypertension, the firm’s director of US pharmaceuticals PR, Michal Fishman, said: ‘When we became aware of what the survival benefit was [for heart-attack victims], we filed for the congestive heart failure indication. Our communications strategy reflects that decision.’

Weber Shandwick president of global healthcare, Laura Schoen, said the drug would launch in ‘early 2004’.

Analysts have said Inspra could be a blockbuster drug, as important as Pfizer’s bestselling arthritis treatment Celebrex.

Inspra inhibits the effects of aldosterone, a hormone that may contribute to the development of hypertension and congestive heart failure, including damage to blood vessels, kidney and the heart.

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