Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Pfizer's Chantix Created "Living" Nightmare For One User?

The current issue (February 18, 2008) of New York Magazine has a story that it teases on the cover above the masthead, "No Smoking Wonder Drug." Below it, in drug-label fine print the sub-head is: "Makes quitter talk to potted plants."

And then in the centerfold, there are two blue-tinged, artsy, blurry, smoke-filled pictures--presumably of the author--with the headline, "This Is My Brain on Chantix."

It's a first-person account from a New Yorker who went on the drug and claims he started having hallucinations, vivid dreams, bouts of paranoia, going on a rampage, and fleeting thoughts about killing himself. If it's all true, this guy went on quite a trip. And it's prominently featured in a magazine based in and about Pfizer's hometown (the company's headquartered in midtown Manhattan).

I don't have the subscription numbers, but anecdotally I can safely say that New York is a mag with pretty broad readership in the New York area and is delivered to homes and sold on newsstands across the country. It's also circulating in the blogosphere. So, this is the kind of thing analysts might refer to as "headline risk."

I had recently blogged that one analyst noticed Chantix prescriptions had bounced back around the beginning of this year, but said it was too soon to tell if it was a new year's resolution effect and/or a shedding of recent safety concerns.

But that was before Pfizer changed the label to reflect neuropsychiatric side effects and the Food and Drug Administration put out a Public Health Advisory on the drug. I suspect we'll get a detailed update from Pfizer at its analyst meeting on March 5th.

PFE shares are benefiting from the market and sector rally today. But they remain rangebound in the low to sometimes mid-20s. A price investors who have a long position in the stock wish were a hallucination.

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