The pharma company, headquartered in New York and which produces drugs such as blood-thinner Plavix, is staging the shootout to drive 'efficiencies'. Director of corporate and business comms across EMEA Brian Henry said: 'The groups are pitching for ad and med ed work primarily. But PR may be a component.'
BMS currently uses various advertising, medical education and PR agencies on a Europe and country-wide basis, but has not previously adopted the strategy of inviting groups to pitch for its business.
PR agencies currently used by BMS in EMEA include Omnicom's Fleishman-Hillard and WPP's Burson-Marsteller.
Explaining the review, Henry said: 'We are always looking to ensure we have the best possible partnerships with agencies and want to get the best out of them.'
Asked whether one aim was to pay the agencies less, he said: 'We do want increased efficiencies. But this review is not cost-specific.'
He said a timescale for the review had yet to be decided and agencies from more than one group could eventually win contracts.
Henry added that it was 'too early to speculate' on whether pan-European agency decisions made in Paris would affect how BMS works with its agencies in individual countries.
Representatives from the four groups were this week preparing to descend on BMS's European and French HQ in Rueil-Malmaison, in the outskirts of Paris, to demonstrate their credentials in front of BMS top-brass during presentations between 13 and 17 February. A PRWeek source predicted that a 'carve-up' of briefs among various PR agencies was likely to result.
Last month BMS warned that its profits could be up to 20 per cent lower this year as some of its main drugs face competition from generic alternatives.
BMS is particularly worried about the planned launch in the US of a generic alternative to Plavix, its flagship brand and one of the world's top-selling drugs.
Cholesterol treatment Pravachol also faces patent expiry. But the company holds high hopes for yet-to-launch rheumatoid arthritis drug Orencia.