Pfizer launches new branded Paxlovid ad for COVID as it continues wait for FDA approval

As Pfizer looks to shore up falling Paxlovid sales this year, it has launched its first commercial for the COVID therapy that goes hard on branding.

“If it’s COVID, PAXLOVID,” is the repeated tagline in the new (and long) 1:30 ad spot, which sees people with underlying conditions talk about the need to be aware that their symptoms could get worse.

“My symptoms are mild now, but I’m not waiting,” says one actor. “If it’s COVID, PAXLOVID,” he repeats. The ad is clear the drug isn’t approved, saying it has emergency authorization, and spends a long time describing who and when people can take the drug.

Pfizer clearly needs a marketing boost, because sales for Paxlovid are expected to plummet this year, and the New York company will want to do all it can to minimize the drop.

Last month, the Big Pharma said it saw Paxlovid revenue falling from the $18.9 billion it made in 2022 to just $8 billion this year, mirroring the type of sales decline analysts also expect for its COVID vaccine Comirnaty.

It also comes as Pfizer continues to wait for a full FDA approval for Paxlovid. The antiviral was given an emergency use authorization (EUA) in December 2021, which allowed Pfizer to sell the drug to those who had moderate to severe COVID and were at risk for it to get worse.

An EUA is not, however, a full approval and comes with some restrictions on how it’s sold, and it’s no surprise that Pfizer is gunning for a full green light to maximize the drug’s sales potential.

That plan was dealt a blow in December 2022 when the FDA extended its review of Paxlovid as it combs over new safety and efficacy data it asked the Big Pharma to show before it could decide on a full approval.

That makes this ad a little strange. Pfizer has in general played it softly with marketing for its COVID products so far, with them being more like awareness campaigns and not directed, branded plugs.

Its first ad for Paxlovid, which first aired last March, ran along these lines. It came as an animated 30-second spot focusing on how fast COVID-19 moves. Using an orange and blue color scheme, the ad features a narrator saying you can move fast, too, by “asking your healthcare provider if a new oral treatment could be right for you.”

There was no mention of Pfizer’s then newly authorized Paxlovid, though clearly the U.S. pharma was hoping patients would choose its treatment. A Pfizer logo did pop up at the end of the spot along with a link to Pfizer’s COVID-19 website.

The latest ad is, however, direct in mentioning Paxlovid’s name and linking the drug to COVID, though Pfizer tells Fierce Pharma Marketing that: “Our letter of authorization from the FDA allows this,” and it clearly states that the drug is under an EUA within the ad, as well as listing the drug’s potential side effects.