Glaxo, Merck & Pfizer: Your Emails

As we head into the holiday break and the bloggable newsflow slows to a trickle, I am digging into the overflowing mailbag while filling in for my vacationing colleague Scott Wapner at the Nasdaq this week.

A GlaxoSmithKline corporate communications staffer took exception to part of my post yesterday about GSK stopping certain political contributions. Sarah Alspach, GSK’s Director of US Media Relations, asked “Is there a reason why you felt it necessary to include ‘voluntary’ and ‘independent’ in quotes?” I lifted the words straight out of the company’s press release and I thought they were key. But Alspach implied I might have been unfairly casting asperions. “We as a company believe it is important to be involved in the political process and we encourage our employees to become involved in the process, whatever their personal philosophy or perspective.”

Attorney James T. Christy wrote to criticize my citing of GSK’s political contributions as measured by the Center for Responsive Politics. He claimed the CRP, “is not an independent source. It has an agenda. Its agenda is to mislead or color the public’s perception about money in politics and to foment public anger over money in politics so as to achieve public financing of political campaigns, a result that will require taxpayers to subsidize the views of political parties and candidates that taxpayers may find abhorrent.”

Moving on. My recent interview with Merck’sexecutive VP Ken Frazier,the former general counsel who steered the company to the $5 billion Vioxx settlement, generated a few emails from interested parties. A guy who doesn’t want his name used wrote, “While media sources report (settlement) payments, in truth there is no known payments made.” Ed Paul, another guy who claims to be a litigant, complained that he feels he’s getting short-changed and about what he sees as the delay. “They agreed to provide interim payments to claimants in August 2008. Here it is December and we are still waiting.” As far as I know, Merck cut the first checks within the last few months.

My blog about Pfizerpartnering up with a company that has a drug for curved penises got a rise out of a couple of readers. Stan Roberts wrotes, “Peyronie (that’s the name of the condition that affects one to four percent of men) free since age 13. Thought you’d like to know!” Well, not really. And Matthew Hollingsworth said, “It had me laughing out loud, which is really something that rarely happens when reading about stocks and investing.” That’s what I’m here for.

And my post last week about Pfizer deploying a small army of marketers in Times Square to convince people to quit smoking and possibly get them steered to the company’s stop-smoking drug Chantix drew a query from Jim Edwards. He asked, “Did any aspect of Pfizer’s Chantix promo at the Nasdaq (Times Square) contain the required risk warnings?” The answer is no. The campaign is unbranded and is geared toward awareness. So, that means Chantix doesn’t get uttered.

In fact, when I mentioned Chantix to one of the street marketers he quickly replied that his work had nothing to do with Chantix. My guess is they’re under strict orders not to mention the drug. By the way, even in this frigid cold snap here in the northeast, the yellow-jacketed marketers are still out there freezing their you-know-whats off. I’d show you a picture, but the zoom function on my BlackBerry camera isn’t working and so the image isn’t good enough for posting. Take my word for it. I’ve seen them bundled up outside for the last two sub-freezing days from my perch here in the Nasdaq. I can see their breath, and it’s not cigarette smoke.

Questions? Comments?