Pfizer "Re-Lighting" Chantix Ad Campaign For Smokers?

While thumbing through “Parade” magazine yesterday, the fluffy publication that you find tucked inside some Sunday newspapers,I noticed an ad for Pfizer’s stop-smoking drug Chantix.

It caught my eye because the company had stopped doing what’s called “branded” advertising for the pill earlier this year because of new safety concerns and switched back to what’s called an “awareness” campaign—in this case, “My Time To Quit.”

Chantix Ad
Chantix Ad

So, I fired off an email to Pfizer’s communications point person on Chantix to check if the drugmaker has indeed relaunched the branded campaign. The answer is “yes.” In an email, spokesperson Francisco Gebauer says Pfizer worked with Food and Drug Administration to hammer out the new ad copy which includes references to the aforementioned safety issues. The agency is looking into a number of reports of people on Chantix becoming suicidal. Here are the bullet points that have been added to the new print campaign:

Patients attempting to quit smoking with CHANTIX are urged to tell their doctor right away if they experience, or if their family or caregiver observe, changes in behavior, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal thinking and behavior.

Patients are advised to tell their doctors about any history of depression or other mental health problems, which may worsen while taking CHANTIX.

Patients are also advised that they may experience trouble sleeping and vivid, unusual, or strange dreams and to use caution when driving or operating machinery until they know how quitting smoking with CHANTIX may affect them.

Gebauer says Pfizer is “exploring” advertising Chantix again in various print and TV outlets, although I haven’t yet spotted a new commercial. He claims Pfizer is bringing it back because smoking is such a huge public health problem and because the ads help get smokers to talk to their doctors about quitting. But I think it may also have something to do with the fact that sales of Chantix actually went down in the last quarter.

Chantix is an important relatively new drug for Pfizer which desperately needs to make sure it remains a growth driver.

Coincidentally, that issue is highlighted in a research note this morning from Leerink Swann analyst Seamus Fernandez. He writes, “Cost-cutting & lower tax rate do little to mitigate top line challenges.” And although he believes PFE’s approximately 6.3 percent dividend yield is safe in the short term Fernandez is telling clients, “Concern about sustainability of high dividend post-2012 (after Lipitor goes generic) are warranted. We believe the strategic hurdles facing the company are substantial. We recommend that investors await greater visibility on management’s ability to execute on its internal R&D (research and development) efforts before purchasing PFE shares.” Leerink Swann may trade in PFE.

In a down market this morning, Pfizer shares are down a fraction.

Questions? Comments?