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Pfizer: No Ifs, Ands Or Butts, Doctors Help Smokers Quit

French Smokers
French Smokers

Pfizer sent out a press release this morning touting the findings of a company-sponsored European survey of ex-smokers.

The study found that 84 percent of the respondents in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK who had consulted with a doctor or some other healthcare professional about quitting thought it was helpful.

However, only 13 percent of the nearly 1,000 participants had talked to a doc or someone else in the medical field. The press release quotes a doctor in The Netherlands who says that shows how important it is for people who want to quit to seek out a professional.

Of course, that's how potential quitters can get a prescription for the relatively new drug PFE makes to stop smoking. It's sold as Chantix in the U.S. and Champix overseas. The world's biggest drugmaker is pushing the drug in an ubiquitous ad campaign featuring the tortoise and the hare. In fact, as I'm writing this blog entry I'm watching the spot during a break on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" at 10:15 a.m. ET.

And I've seen new internet ads saying, "Resolve to quit in 2008." Pfizer's apparently turning up the volume because Chantix is one of the few bright spots in its product portfolio these days. Lipitor sales are falling and it recently gave up on another once-promising new product--the inhalable insulin, Exubera.

Chantix Ad

PFE sold nearly a quarter-billion dollars worth of Chantix in the third quarter. But it will be interesting to see the fourth quarter numbers after the FDA and its UK equivalent recently told doctors to be on the lookout for abnormal behavior among their Chantix patients. Australia has already gone so far as to put a warning on the drug about the possibility of feeling depressed, agitated or thinking about suicide while taking Champix. Eventually, some say the same thing will happen here.

A couple of other noteworthy findings of the Pfizer survey: 45 percent said concerns about health problems were a major factor in their decision to quit and 28 percent said the cost of smokes influenced them. Not a coincidence, I'm guessing, that another new ad appears on "The New York Times" web site homepage today that says, "Calculate how much your smoking habit costs." The survey participants hadn't taken a puff for at least a year.

Interestingly, yesterday when the Dow and the American pharma sector tanked, PFE shares were up a fraction. Maybe it was a dog of the Dow thing on the first trading day of the year--Pfizer was one of the index's worst performers in 2007. It started this year not much off of its low of 22 bucks and change, so it could be investor bargain hunting and/or the still-attractive dividend. Pfizer's obviously hoping Chantix sales will help "light up" the stock this year.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com