Will Pfizer rivals join drug giveaway?

Were you impressed last week when Pfizer announced it would give away some of its most popular drugs--including Lipitor--to folks who've lost their jobs recently? Apparently so were lots and lots of journalists. That story got major play across the U.S. So much play, in fact, that drug marketing experts estimate the announcement was worth some $100 million in free advertising.

"Think of the goodwill, think of the brand advocates they're creating by providing these medicines," Dorothy Wetzel, an ex-Pfizerite who now has her own healthcare ad agency, told Advertising Age. "You have somebody who's going to say 'I lost my job but I can still get my Lipitor for free? I'm going to tell everybody.' And all the studies show that some of the biggest influencers in health care are friends and family."

If the observers who talked to AdAge about the program are any indication, Pfizer may not be the only drugmaker benefiting from Pfizer's decision. The whole of pharma could get a rosy-glasses halo from the No. 1 drugmaker's charity. And Pfizer's assistance program may prompt other announcements from other drugmakers (GlaxoSmithKline, maybe?). "As we approach health-care reform legislation," pharma analyst Seamus Fernandez told AdAge, "I think pharmaceutical companies will continue to announce and implement programs like this in order to keep public perception from sliding, which could result in more onerous legislative decisions."

- read the AdAge story