NEW YORK: Ogilvy PR has walked away with the highly coveted Pfizer pain franchise account, which includes arthritis drugs Celebrex and Bextra, the pharmaceutical company said.
The agency will be AOR for all PR activities involving the two drugs, said Paul Ewing, Pfizer director of PR. Terms were not disclosed.
Shire Health Group will handle PR for the pain products outside the US, as well as for Dynastat, a painkiller not approved here.
Ogilvy won the account after a competitive bid. Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, and Porter Novelli also pitched for the franchise this summer.
Both MS&L, which had held the Celebrex account, and Weber Shandwick, which held Bextra, opted not to re-pitch.
This is the second time Pfizer has consolidated PR for one of its drug franchises. WPP won the heart franchise in January.
Both Celebrex, one of Pfizer's top five products, and Bextra are blockbuster drugs, meaning they bring in more than $1 billion of revenue annually. Pfizer's third-quarter earnings report showed revenue growth of 14% for Celebrex and 37% for Bextra.
In recent weeks, Pfizer's pain products have been subject to many of the same inquiries as Merck's recently recalled drug, Vioxx, which is in the same class as the two Pfizer medications.
Ewing denied that the current questions about cox-2 inhibitors delayed or otherwise affected the selection process.
The company launched an advertising initiative in October to promote Celebrex's safety and announced that it is sponsoring more studies.
In a previous interview, Michal Fishman, director of public affairs for Pfizer US pharmaceuticals, declined to discuss PR plans around the ad campaign. But she noted that the messages would be consistent throughout.
Bextra also has been the subject of recent negative attention after a Food & Drug Administration (FDA) safety officer said it is one of five dangerous drugs that should be taken off the market.
Dr. David Graham named the drugs during a November 18 Senate hearing on drug safety and the Vioxx recall.
Yet he directed his criticism at the FDA, saying that the agency is "virtually incapable of protecting America."
The FDA, meanwhile, is trying to distance itself from the testimony of one of its own officers. In a statement, the FDA said Graham's testimony "does not reflect the views of the agency."
Pfizer has reaffirmed Bextra's safety through a statement on its website.