Pfizer has been using Dr. Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the Jarvik Artificial Heart, for quite some time now as its Lipitor "celebrity" pitchman. But recently I've noticed something remarkable creeping into his copy--the script he reads for TV and radio spots and the text that appears in the print ads.
In the face of a 13% decline in third-quarter U.S. Lipitor sales Pfizer is now taking dead aim at the intense competition from cheaper, generic Zocor.
On the earnings conference call, Pfizer Chairman and CEO Jeff Kindler called the threat an "unprecedented, commercial assault in the history of our industry." Merck and Schering-Plough also saw sequentially flat sales of their cholesterol-fighting drugs Zetia and Vytorin in the third quarter. We'll hear from AstraZeneca about the sales of the most potent statin on the market, Crestor, this week when it reports earnings.
The other day I heard another radio commercial featuring Dr. Jarvik. Normally, I don't pay much attention to them since he's been on the air for awhile, but this one made my ears perk up when at the end of the spot he said, "I trust my heart to Lipitor. Not a generic." That quote may not be verbatim, but it's pretty darn close. I was driving at the time and couldn't pull over, so I repeated the line to myself over and over hoping to commit it to memory.
It's common practice to name 'Brand X' in prescription pharmaceutical commercials these days, but this is the first time that I can recall a major drug company actually calling out a "generic" in its advertising. In a full-page Lipitor ad that appeared in the Sunday "Newark Star-Ledger" Jarvik is quoted as saying, "I take Lipitor instead of a generic."