Pfizer Gets Two Opinions

Okay, so I'm a day late on this, but I spent much of the day yesterday on a plane unable to transmit anything from my BlackBerry.

I'm writing this post with the wireless feature turned off.

The trip back from the ADA meeting in San Francisco gave me the rare chance to watch my Netflix rentals (they must love me as a subscriber because I hang onto my rentals for so long) and to read all of the major newspapers pretty much cover to cover, which is where I found my inspiration for this entry.

As Bob Pisani blogged earlier this week Pfizer shares continue to trade at new nearly 11-year lows over concerns the dividend might get cut, in addition to the lack of anything visible to replace Lipitor when it goes generic in a couple years or so.

But on two of the op-ed pages in Wednesday's "Wall Street Journal" Pfizer got a plug.

The first one was obvious. The company's Chief Medical Officer penned a piece that I'm assuming is part of Pfizer's new media defense plan for the embattled stop-smoking drug Chantix.

In the article Dr. Joe Feczko takes issue with the recent report by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices that identified more suspected side effects of Chantix. He also criticizes the media for "sensational" and incomplete coverage of the ISMP study for not mentioning the health hazards and costs of cigarette smoking.

Then, two pages deeper into the "A" section of the paper was another op-ed with a more obscure reference to PFE.

Two men with a group called the "Abigail Alliance" dedicated to getting more promising experimental drugs to patients faster wrote the item endorsing federal legislation to help accomplish that goal.

They're trying to use Senator Ted Kennedy's cancer diagnosis as a rallying and lobbying point. Specifically, they mention that the Senator should be able to try the Pfizer/Avant Immunotherapeuticsbrain tumor vaccine that I reported on from ASCO last week. It's the one Bobby Murcer is getting.

What the op-ed piece doesn't mention, though, is that the vaccine is believed to work only on a specific type of brain tumor that occurs in around 30-40 percent of patients.

We--the media and the public--don't know if Kennedy has that type of tumor. And even if he does, he still has to finish several weeks of chemo and radiation before possibly getting the vaccine.

Interestingly, Avant is based in the Senator's hometown and doctors at Duke University, where he had his tumor removed, are leading (along with doctors at M.D. Anderson) the vaccine tests.

Whether Kennedy gets the vaccine or not, if the results seen in a small study hold up in a bigger clinical trial, this could turn out to be one of Pfizer's best bets. It struck the potentially $400 million-plus partnership deal with AVAN only weeks before the positive results were unveiled at ASCO.

Still, while it may turn out to be a significant breakthrough in brain cancer, it won't be nearly enough to fix Pfizer.

Questions? Comments?