Pfizer readies launch of anti-smoking drug

NEW YORK/LONDON: Pfizer has overhauled the agency support behind its anti-smoking drug on both sides of the Atlantic.

It has brought in Edelman to advise on US and global comms, while it is using start-up Just Health PR on a UK brief.
The prescription product, tipped by some to become a blockbuster, received FDA approval in the US on 11 May. It will be known as Chantix in the US.

It is the first new anti-smoking drug to be approved in nearly a decade, and was fast-tracked by the FDA because of its potential to have therapeutic advantages over existing treatments, such as GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Zyban. A European launch date is not yet known.

The previous agency handling global comms was Chandler Chicco Agency (CCA), which ceased to work on the product this February, having been brought in 12 months previously (PRWeek, 18 February 2005).

Just is run by Jennie Talman and Emma Crozier, who left CCA late last year and set up on their own agency four months ago (PRWeek, 10 February)

Neither Just nor Edelman would comment, while Pfizer UK failed to return PRWeek’s calls.

Chantix is the brand name for varenicline, which dampens the pleasurable stimuli that smokers get from lighting up. It mimics nicotine in the body, partially hitting the same nervous-system receptors so as to alleviate craving and withdrawal symptoms.

The smoking-cessation market is dominated by OTC brands such as Pfizer’s own Nicorette, plus GSK’s NiQuitin CQ,
all available without prescription.

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