At a glance

The world’s top-selling drug has been in the news again, hasn’t it? Yes – and it’s great news from a PR perspective. Pfizer’s cholesterol brand can save more lives than first thought.

So it does more than lower cholesterol?

That’s what the US Food and Drug Administration has approved. Lipitor can be said to prevent cardiovascular disease: in trials, 10mg of Lipitor reduced the risk of heart attack by 36 per cent compared with a placebo.

Good news all round, then?

Not if you have liver disease or are pregnant, because you are advised not to take Lipitor. But it cuts heart-attack risk in people with normal to slightly elevated cholesterol levels who have other cardiovascular risk factors.

Which means more PR work?

Ketchum, which has the Pfizer UK account, says nothing radically different is on the PR agenda. But this pushes the drug further into the mainstream, making it of interest to wider healthcare audiences, so expect extensions of existing campaigns.

What sort of messages have been used recently?

Pfizer has been focusing on pushing data that showed Lipitor could reduce heart attacks and strokes in diabetes patients, using the results of the Collaborative Atorvastatin Diabetes Study (PR Week18 June). Forty-eight per cent fewer Lipitor-treated patients experienced strokes compared with those who received placebo.

What about the competition?

Schering-Plough’s Zetia and Merck Sharp & Dohme’s Zocor are linking to produce anti-cholesterol pill Inegy (PR Week 6 August). It is in the US as Vytorin and is seeking marketing approval across the EU. One trial found that it was more effective than Lipitor.

Does this mean that Lipitor’s crown is slipping?

According to PRWeek’s latest Pharma Focus chart on anti-cholesterol brands (PR Week 16 April), 100 per cent of GPs are aware of Lipitor and 74 per cent are likely to prescribe it as a result of promotional messages. Sales of the drug worldwide were up 17 per cent to £1.3bn in Q2 of this year.

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