Pfizer strikes back with Chantix ads

Hit by new concerns about the safety of its stop-smoking drug Chantix, Pfizer is hitting back with an advertising and PR campaign. And no wonder: The drugmaker has been counting on that drug, with $883 million in sales last year, to help make up some of the $13 billion it could lose off its top line once Lipitor faces generic competition. Major newspaper ads today are designed to explain Chantix's risk-vs.-benefits calculus, and next week, Pfizer will host roundtable discussions with reporters.

Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Grassley is asking the FDA about the study released last week linking Chantix to a litany of adverse events, including 988 serious reports during the fourth quarter of last year, more reports than with any other drug, Grassley noted in a letter to the agency. One issue: whether Chantix is safe at the recommended dosage. Even before the drug was approved, FDA questioned whether the dosing should be lowered. But Pfizer reminds us that FDA did end up approving the current dosing levels, and that the newly reported side effects are in fact listed on the product label. We'll see how the brouhaha shakes out.

- see the story in the Wall Street Journal