Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pfizer readies consumer ads for its year-old anti-smoking pill

If this guy doesn't make you quit smoking with his "sage" advice, then what will?

Pfizer readies consumer ads for its year-old anti-smoking pill

Published May 10, 2007

Although most Americans with health insurance are unlikely to get coverage for Pfizer Inc.'s smoking pill Chantix, the pharmaceutical giant says the pill is still much cheaper than a pack of cigarettes, which figures into its marketing plan.

Pfizer, which launched Chantix last summer, said it did not expect much health insurance coverage of the prescription, which costs about $3 a day, so it priced the pill below that of a package of cigarettes.

Cigarettes are expensive and can cost $8 to $10 a pack in Manhattan and some bars in Chicago, or $3 to $4 in rural America or certain areas where taxes on cigarettes are not as high, according to Pfizer and other sources.

"It's the difference between putting money into making yourself sick or putting money into making yourself healthy," said Terri O'Gorman, a Pfizer director of marketing.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Chantix was the first new prescription aid to smoking cessation treatment to be approved in nearly a decade when the agency cleared the drug for marketing a year ago.

With more employers and health insurers pushing high-deductible health plans on consumers that require them to pay more out of pocket for drugs anyway, Pfizer is not expecting a huge boost in coverage for the pill. The New York-based drugmaker, citing government figures, said about one in four Americans with health insurance get coverage for smoking cessation treatments and programs, according to research it did before launching Chantix.

Chantix was approved to be taken for up to 12 weeks, according to its government-approved label. Upon consultation with their doctors, smokers can take Chantix for another 12 weeks if they have demonstrated they have quit, Pfizer said.

In the next stage of Pfizer's marketing blitz for Chantix the company this summer will begin branded consumer ads for the pill. Chantix sales were $162 million in the first quarter, with the bulk of sales coming from the U.S.

Since December Pfizer has been marketing the pill with unbranded ads through its campaign dubbed "My time to quit." The ad campaign includes a Web site ( and offers smokers a chance to calculate the amount of money they are spending on smoking. It does not, however, compare savings to the cost of the drug.

DEPENDENCY NETWORK: In a deal that will create a consolidated chemical dependency program with 19 sites in the Chicago area, Rush University Medical Center said it has sold the Rush Behavioral Health Network to Catholic hospital operator Resurrection Health Care for an undisclosed sum.

Rush Behavioral will essentially merge its operations, including its addiction services for professionals, into the Resurrection Behavioral network. More than 70 Rush Behavioral employees along with contracts, leases and other businesses will transfer to Resurrection, the parties involved said.

Dr. Daniel Angres, who is the founder and director of Rush Behavioral Health, will continue to oversee the program for professionals and becomes director of the newly formed Resurrection Addiction Services.

Rush, a large academic medical center on Chicago's West Side, sold the chemical dependency and substance abuse network to focus on its campus redevelopment and "core tertiary care, research and educational missions," a spokesman said. "We have consolidated or sold a number of programs over the years."
Hear Bruce Japsen on WBBM-AM 780 at 6:21 p.m. and 10:22 p.m. Mondays and 11:20 a.m. Saturdays.

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

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