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John McCain's Cholesterol: "Good" For Pfizer And AstraZeneca?

John McCain
Soggydan
John McCain

The coverage of Senator John McCain's medical records which were released last Friday focused mostly on skin cancer. But there's a timely anecdote in the report about his cardiovascular health.

There are nearly 12-hundred pages, so I'm not going to put a link to it here. Suffice to say that the 71-year-old presumptive Republican presidential nominee had high cholesterol and was taking Vytorin made by Merck and Schering-Plough . But after the controversial study came out earlier this year questioning the drug's effectiveness, doctors switched McCain onto generic Zocor.

They report that his cholesterol level subsequently went up slightly, but that it's still "acceptable."

I'm not sure Pfizer and AstraZeneca would agree with that diagnosis and course of treatment. But they might not have much sway with the senator who has received less than one-third the amount ofmoney from the pharma/health industry than each of the two Democratic frontrunners, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

I'm thinkin' those two drug giants are champin' at the bit for the docs to get McCain off generic Zocor and onto Lipitor or Crestor. On recent conference calls, some PFE officials have said they think a lot of patients who've had a similar experience to McCain's will eventually come back around to Lipitor.

Pfizer shares hit another new, multi-year intra-day low this morning due in no small part to the fact that the company loses the key patent on Lipitor in two to three years and it doesn't have anything visible in its development pipeline to replace it. Revenue from the world's top-selling pill is already falling in the face of intense competition from much cheaper generic Zocor. In McCain's case I'm certain, though, that the choice of medication isn't a budgetary issue.

If he loses the general election, maybe McCain will go the route of Bob Dole with Viagra and become a pitchman for one of the cholesterol drugs. Don't think it hasn't crossed the minds of the marketers already. If he got himself a good agent, maybe there'd even be a bidding war.

Note of interest: Here's a blog that grew out of the Vytorin controversy.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com