Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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PinUp: Welcome to 2018 - Less Health Insurance, Shorter Lifespan, and Limper Sex Life

PinUp: Welcome to 2018 - Less Health Insurance, Shorter Lifespan, and Limper Sex Life | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Welcome to the January 5, 2018, issue of Pharma Industry News Update (aka PinUp).



  • Pfizer Raises Wholesale Price of 148 Drugs, Including Viagra

  • Azar Would Be Detrimental to Americans’ Access to Health Care

  • Drop in life expectancy an "indictment of the American health care system"


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Baby Boomers Make Fools of Themselves in Patti LaBelle "Prank" to Promote Pfizer's Pneumonia Vaccine

Baby Boomers Make Fools of Themselves in Patti LaBelle "Prank" to Promote Pfizer's Pneumonia Vaccine | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Pfizer has tapped a legendary singer to raise awareness about the risk of pneumococcal pneumonia for older adults. In an online video, Patti LaBelle plays judge for a fake backup singer audition. Baby boomer singers take the stage to perform, but there's one catch: The microphones have been rigged to make it sound like the singers have pneumococcal pneumonia, with coughing and wheezing overtaking their songs.


LaBelle clues in the singers with an “I got you,” while a voiceover explains the risk for people over 65 and encourages them to get a “new attitude”—one of LaBelle’s most popular songs—and talk to their doctor about vaccination.


The awareness effort is called “All About Your Boom,” and it will appear online at the campaign website as well as on social channels, including Facebook and YouTube.


Pfizer chose LaBelle, 73, because “she embodied what it means to be a boomer. … She wants to remind fellow boomers that a big part of staying healthy that is often overlooked is staying up-to-date on CDC-recommended adult vaccinations,” the Pfizer spokeswoman said.


The campaign comes as flu season begins, a time when many people aged 65 and older go to their doctor for a flu shot, so the reminder to ask about the pneumonia vaccine is meant to coincide with that, she said.


Pfizer’s vaccination for pneumococcal pneumonia is Prevnar 13, which in branded TV advertising has tallied $30.3 million in national spending so far this year, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker The bulk of that was spent in the first four months of the year, with a break for the summer, and ads just recently came back on the air at the beginning of September.


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A Dick Move by Pfizer: Raises Price of Viagra & Other Drugs by as Much as 28% in One Year!

A Dick Move by Pfizer: Raises Price of Viagra & Other Drugs by as Much as 28% in One Year! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

For the second time this year, Pfizer has made substantial price hikes on some of its medicines, a move that disregards blistering criticism of the pharmaceutical industry over the cost of prescription drugs.


Specifically, the drug maker raised prices for 91 medicines on June 1 by between 5 percent and 13 percent, according to The Financial Times. This marks the second time this year that Pfizer boosted prices and, when factoring in price hikes made last January, the company has raised prices an average of 20 per cent this year.


As an example, the paper pointed to the average wholesale price of a 100 mg tablet of Viagra, which was $57.94 at the start of the year, but now costs $73.85 after two consecutive increases. As a result, the list price for the little blue pill, as it is known, has jumped 27.5 percent this year.


The move comes as more Americans complain about the toll that price hikes are having on their wallets and the Pfizer price hikes are certain to fuel further controversy, especially since the company refused to agree to limit annual increase to single digits. Some drug makers — Allergan (read “Allergan's Brent Saunders' Manifesto on Drug Prices & Access”; and Novo Nordisk (read “Novo Nordisk President Pledges to Limit List Prices of Drugs But Cannot Guarantee Market Price”; — have taken this vow and Sanofi is linking prices hikes to medical inflation, but these notion have failed to catch on in a meaningful way.


Instead, Pfizer chief executive Ian Read has argued that medicines should be judged on their value (read “Ian Read – Bean Counter Pfizer CEO – Won’t Commit to Keep a Lid on Drug Price Increases”; But at an industry conference last year, he appeared riled when Regeneron chief executive Len Schleifer chastised drug makers for boosting prices on a regular basis, and appeared to single out price hikes that Pfizer took over a six-month period — 8.8 percent and 10.4 percent, on average — in 2016 (“Oh Snap! Regeneron CEO Says What to Pfizer CEO Ian Read???”;


Pfizer may have hard a time explaining how the value of so many of their medicines increased over such a short period of time to justify such price hikes, especially given public anger.


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A Canadian Strikes Back Against Pfizer CEO Read Regarding Who Innovated What First

A Canadian Strikes Back Against Pfizer CEO Read Regarding Who Innovated What First | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Last week in Washington, DC, a luncheon at the National Press Club Ballroom was the scene of a unique treat, as members of the US media were on hand to sample the steak salad and crab cake sandwiches and to rake Ian Read, CEO of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, over the coals.


One of the “stewards of the drug industry,” Read was on hand to defend his company’s practices (price gouging, political lobbying, etc.) and to spread the gospel of good will from Big Pharma. And to take some pot shots at Canada along the way.


For over an hour, Read spoke of the challenges faced by pharmaceutical companies in bringing a new drug to market, insisting that research and development are costly endeavours and that without charging the high fees they do for drugs (he’d call it citizen-funded investment in medical innovation, you may have different names for it), advances in healthcare just wouldn’t happen.


The messaging continued through until near the end of the Q & A when the topic of international trade agreements came up. “We didn’t support [the Trump-scuppered] Trans Pacific Partnership because it was really bad for our intellectual property,” said Read. “Most of these countries, if you look at Canada, if you look at Australia, if you look at New Zealand, all highly developed countries, all free-riding on inventions in the United States” (read “Ian Read, CEO of Pfizer, aka the “Donald Trump of Pharma,” Bashes Global “Freeloading” Off U.S.”; )


Read drove the point home by saying, “Canada is cheaper because of [drug] ration[ing]. And Canada is cheaper because it can, because it free-rides off American innovation.”


The claim has been made before. The idea goes that citizens in countries with universal healthcare pay less for drugs than they do in the US because the governments of Canada, New Zealand and Australia constrain drug companies from charging the full monty for their products. Thus, the poor pharma companies have to make do with less profits in the rest of the world and consequently must rifle all the more vigorously through the pockets of American citizens in order to pay for their R&D.


Freeloaders, Mr. Read? Freeloaders on American innovation! I’m no Einstein, but I think you might have it a little ass backwards, dude. Do you like that smart phone in your pocket, Mr. American businessman? I’d say you owe us and the folks at BlackBerry for that one. The old-fashioned telephone, too, you might remember, was made by a Canadian/Scotsman.


Thomas Edison may get the credit for the light bulb, Mr. Read, but he bought the patent from a couple of Canadians by the name of Woodward and Evans. More co-opting of Canadian ingenuity, the inventor of the AM radio broadcast was Reginald Fessenden, another Canadian trying to make a living down in the States.

Who invented the Java programming language? James Gosling from Calgary. Who invented both the alkaline and lithium batteries? Chemical engineer Lewis Urry from little Pontypool, Ontario. IMAX technology? A Canadian team.


Yes, Mr. Read, some of our inventions may seem a bit pedestrian to you big city types. The paint roller, for one, and instant mashed potatoes. Five pin bowling. But no one can say we aren’t crafty with our surroundings, to wit, the snowblower, the ski-doo, instant replay and the hockey mask.


Finally, allow me to step into your sandbox, Mr. Pfizer, and say one word: insulin.


Now, with that fully out of our systems, let us return to the broader thesis that research and development carried out by pharmaceutical companies requires proper financial investment by countries and their drug-consuming, over-a-barrel citizens.


“Overall, I think it’s fair to say that we’re being responsible when it comes to the pricing of our medicines,” said Read. “We’re producing great value for society and simultaneously taking large financial risks due to the uncertainty of the drug.”


In any given year, companies like Pfizer spend more on sales and marketing of their drugs than on research and development. From 2013, for example, Pfizer spent $6.6 billion on R&D and $11.4 billion on sales and marketing. The same year, Johnson & Johnson spent $8.2 billion on R&D and $17.5 billion on marketing.


That $6.6 billion spent on R&D seems a lot less impressive when stacked up against $22 billion in profit — and, consequently, the whole argument that high drug costs are necessary for innovation seems a whole lot of nonsense…


And yet there he was, blaming Canada and calling it “commercial blackmail” when governments (“monopoly-purchasing governments,” he says) have the audacity to set prices for his drugs. There he was chastising Canada and attacking our government’s utter gall in considering its citizens’ interests, their health and their livelihoods when deciding on drug prices. And calling us a country of innovation freeloaders, to boot!

Before pondering that some more, I think I’ll zip up the ol’ parka, jump on my snowmobile and head to the bar for a Bloody Caesar. Maybe get a butter tart, too.

Pharma Guy's insight:

You go Canada! BTW, you forgot to include Trailer Park Boys!

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Regeneron CEO Len Schleifer vs Pfizer CEO Ian Read on Drug Prices Redux

Regeneron CEO Len Schleifer vs Pfizer CEO Ian Read on Drug Prices Redux | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Len Schleifer made something of a splash at an industry conference last December. The Regeneron Pharmaceuticals chief executive chastised Pfizer chief executive Ian Read over drug prices while participating in a panel discussion (read “Oh Snap! Regeneron CEO Says What to Pfizer CEO Ian Read???”;


Ed Silverman of Pharmalot recently spoke with him about drug pricing and the FDA, too. This is an excerpt.


Pharmalot: You made a point that companies shouldn’t be doing things like taking more than one price hike a year or a certain percentage. But what, if any, commitment has your company made or is willing to make?


Schleifer: I’m not convinced that the reason people are so angry is because there’s been a few bad actors. In fact, a few bad actors are not the problem. The problem is the public doesn’t feel like they’re getting something they can afford. It’s not a surprise that the populist movements of both Democratic and Republican parties are pointing fingers at the pharma industry as being greedy and unreasonable.


Pharmalot: But no one prompted you to say what you did to Ian Read. Why were you so openly vocal?


Schleifer: I argued with Ian for good reason. He said two things which I violently disagree with. One is that he said he prices his drugs to the value that they deliver. And I take great exception to that because I said I don’t understand how you can actually say that. Because if you really believe that, then why would the prices of some of those drugs go up 10 or 15 percent sometimes twice a year?


Has the value delivered gone up? I didn’t like people running around representing our industry and saying one thing and doing another.


Second thing is he wanted to make the argument that the percentage of GDP that drugs cost hasn’t changed very much. That may be true and may be a good thing. But I told him nobody out there is allocating a certain fraction of the GDP for the drug industry. We have to justify that fraction.


I’ve also taken issue with the so-called social contract. [Allergan chief executive Brent Saunders recently committed to keep price hikes for most drugs at below single-digit increases and a couple of other companies have followed suit. Read “Allergan's Brent Sauders' Manifesto on Drug Prices & Access”;]. They talk about no more double-digit price hikes and then they came out with 9 point something percent. That doesn’t sound to me like something like a real bargain.


But if you step back and understand why people have chosen price hikes. It’s fairly obvious — because they could. It’s a hell of a lot easier to generate growth by raising prices, because if you can raise prices by 10 percent, it’s a risk-free way of generating billions of dollars in revenue as opposed to actually having to discover new drugs, which is incredibly hard.


Pharmalot: Okay, so you’ve framed the problem, but what do you think are the solutions?




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Pfizer CEO Ian Read: Raise Drug Prices to Lower Costs to Consumers – Wha?

Pfizer CEO Ian Read: Raise Drug Prices to Lower Costs to Consumers – Wha? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Ian Read, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer Inc., gestures as he speaks during a panel session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on


Ian Read, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer Inc., gestures as he speaks during a panel session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017.


Pfizer CEO Ian Read has an unusual solution for problem of high drug prices.


"We need to pay more for medicine so we can develop more good medicine, so we can drive, through competition, lower costs," Read said Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.


This raise-prices-so-we-can-lower-prices concept was Read's response to a question about how the drug industry should react to President-elect Donald Trump's promise to "bring down drug prices." He told Time magazine in December, "I don't like what's happened with drug prices."


He doubled down on those statements telling the Washington Post that lower drug costs were going to be central to his plans for lowering health-care costs in the U.S. and overhaul the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.


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Oh Snap! Regeneron CEO Says What to Pfizer CEO Ian Read???

Oh Snap! Regeneron CEO Says What to Pfizer CEO Ian Read??? | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Someone’s mad about drug price hikes. For once, it’s not Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton -- it’s the CEO of a big U.S. biotech company.


Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. Chief Executive Officer Leonard Schleifer jumped into the drug pricing debate Thursday at a health-care conference, accusing fellow drug company executives he shared a stage with of raising prices to cover up a lack of innovation.


“It’s ridiculous,” Schleifer said. “I hate us also when I see all this stuff.”


Ian Read, who leads drugmaker giant Pfizer Inc., countered with an oft-cited statistic that drug costs as a percentage of health-care expenses haven’t changed in two decades, regardless of price increases.


Schleifer’s response: “You’re not entitled to a fraction of the GDP.”


The shouting match was a rare occurrence in an industry that’s been trying to show a united front to defend itself from attacks coming from the outside -- politicians, patients and health benefits managers. In the past 18 months, companies like Mylan NV, the maker of allergy shot EpiPen, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. have emerged as the faces of the public’s outrage over drug costs.


“The real reason we’re not liked, in my opinion, is because we as an industry have used price increases to cover up the gaps in innovation. That’s just a fact," Schleifer said at the Forbes Healthcare Summit in New York.

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After Long Battle with MSF, Pfizer Drops Price of Prevnar Vaccine to Humanitarian Groups

After Long Battle with MSF, Pfizer Drops Price of Prevnar Vaccine to Humanitarian Groups | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Seeking to defuse a nasty row, Pfizer has lowered the price of its pneumococcal vaccine to non-governmental organizations that supply poor countries.


The company will sell the newest version of its Prevnar 13 vaccine for $3.10 a dose, which means the three-dose treatment to vaccinate a child will cost $9.30. This is the same price that Gavi, an international public-private partnership, has paid since last year. Gavi acts as a bridge between drug makers and philanthropic groups in negotiating supplies for 57 poor and developing countries.


Until now, though, Pfizer had not made the same offer to non-governmental organizations or civil society groups. And the price drop comes after a protracted dispute with Doctors Without Borders, in particular. The nonprofit has repeatedly criticized Pfizer for failing to lower its price and make it more widely available to humanitarian organizations that work in poor and developing countries (read “Doctors Without Borders to Pfizer: We Don't Want Your "Free" Vaccines. We Want Lower Prices!”;


Doctors Without Borders has aggressively pushed Pfizer to cut its price to $5 per child, arguing the company was overcharging both donors and developing countries for a vaccine that has generated billions of dollars in sales in wealthy nations. In the first nine months of this year, the Prevnar vaccine generated about $4.3 billion in sales.


Pharma Guy's insight:

Also read, “Vaccines Are Path to Better Revenue Growth for Some #Pharma Companies”;

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Doctors Without Borders to Pfizer: We Don't Want Your "Free" Vaccines. We Want Lower Prices!

Doctors Without Borders to Pfizer: We Don't Want Your "Free" Vaccines. We Want Lower Prices! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

By Jason Cone, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders in the United States


I recently had the difficult task of telling Ian Read, Pfizer’s CEO, that Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is rejecting the company’s offer to donate a significant number of pneumonia vaccine (PCV) doses for the children we serve. This is not a decision that we took lightly, since our medical teams working in the field witness the impact of pneumonia every day.


Pneumonia claims the lives of nearly one million kids each year, making it the world’s deadliest disease among children. Although there’s a vaccine to prevent this disease, it’s too expensive for many developing countries and humanitarian organizations, such as ours, to afford. As the only producers of the pneumonia vaccine, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are able to keep the price of the vaccine artificially high; since 2009, the two companies have earned $36 billion on this vaccine alone. For years, we have been trying to negotiate with the companies to lower the price of the vaccine, but they offered us donations instead.


You might be wondering, then, why we’d rather pay for the vaccine than get it for free. Isn’t free better?


No. Free is not always better. Donations often involve numerous conditions and strings attached, including restrictions on which patient populations and what geographic areas are allowed to receive the benefits. This process can delay starting vaccination campaigns, which would be an untenable situation in emergency settings, or grossly limit who you’re able to reach with the vaccine.


Donations can also undermine long-term efforts to increase access to affordable vaccines and medicines. They remove incentives for new manufacturers to enter a market when it’s absorbed through a donation arrangement. We need competition from new companies to bring down prices overall — something we don’t have currently for the pneumonia vaccine.


Donations are often used as a way to make others ‘pay up.’ By giving the pneumonia vaccine away for free, pharmaceutical corporations can use this as justification for why prices remain high for others, including other humanitarian organizations and developing countries that also can’t afford the vaccine. Countries, which continue to voice their frustration at being unable to afford new and costly vaccines such as PCV, need lower prices as well to protect children’s health.


Critically, donation offers can disappear as quickly as they come. The donor has ultimate control over when and how they choose to give their products away, risking interruption of programs should the company decide it’s no longer to their advantage. For example, Uganda is now facing a nationwide shortage of Diflucan, an essential crytpococcal meningitis drug, in spite of Pfizer’s commitment to donate the drugs to the government. There are other similar examples of companies’ donation programs leaving governments and health organizations in a lurch without the medical tools they need to treat patients.


To avoid these risks and to limit the use of in-kind medical products donations, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other leading global health organizations such as UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, have clear recommendations against donation offers from pharmaceutical corporations.


Donations of medical products, such as vaccines and drugs, may appear to be good ‘quick fixes,’ but they are not the answer to increasingly high vaccine prices charged by pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer and GSK.


Pfizer should lower the price of its lifesaving pneumonia vaccine for humanitarian organizations and all developing countries to $5 per child. Only then, will we have a meaningful step towards saving children’s lives both today and in the future.


To Mr. Read, I hope to hear soon from you that Pfizer is reducing the price of the vaccine for the millions of children who still need it.

Pharma Guy's insight:

The probable answer from Ian Read: "Sorry, Jason. We got to focus on imperatives: Return on Capital." See the meme here: 

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The Story of Viagra: How Pfizer Sold the Right Drug to the Wrong People!

The Story of Viagra: How Pfizer Sold the Right Drug to the Wrong People! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

In 1989, researchers Peter Dunn and Albert Wood, working at the Pfizer’s research facility at Kent, England, were able to synthesize a drug that could be used to treat patients with high blood pressure and chest pain. Called Sildenafil citrate, this drug could inhibit functioning of the enzyme, cGMP-specific phosphodiestrase type 5, simply called PDE-5, making blood vessels more receptive to nitric oxide in the blood, further leading to the relaxation of the arterial wall and regulation of blood pressure. Like every other drug discovery, Sildenafil citrate, too, now had to go through rigorous clinical trials before being able to actually help patients. Phase I clinical trials were conducted at a hospital in Wales which did not progress very well. In addition to the regular side-effects such as headache, impaired vision and indigestion, sildenafil was also found to result in unintended penile erections in male subjects. What was even worse for Pfizer is that the study found that the drug did not make a significant contribution to treating angina in patients. Phase II trials were also conducted for the drug, but data from the study could not show a correlation between administration of sildenafil and improvement in cases of angina. However, instead of stopping the project altogether, the company invested time and effort in recognizing the cause for these side effects.


Investigations by Pfizer lead them to the fact that PDE-5 is largely located in the arterial wall of the lungs and smooth muscles of the male penis. In addition to acting on the arterial walls, Sildenafil also found its way to these smooth muscles and acted exactly the way it was expected to behave. Pfizer realised that the erection seen in patients was no side-effect at all and they had stumbled upon a major discovery in the field of reproductive medicine. After a few more years of research, a patent application in the year 1996 and approval of US FDA in 1998, Pfizer presented the world with a diamond shaped, blue pill, commonly known as Viagra.


Although Viagra was introduced as a prescription drug, Pfizer made every effort to market it to every household they could, not only in the United States but also worldwide.

The marketing of the drug was done so well that within a couple of years of its release, Viagra accounted for 92% of the global prescriptions for erectile dysfunction and even though its market share has dropped is helping Pfizer make millions every year.


While the drug shows remarkable improvement in people affected by erectile dysfunction, there is hardly any evidence to show that it works for healthy individuals. Originally Viagra was available only by prescription, but since several other brands are now available in the market, sildenafil citrate can be bought anonymously over the internet or also as an over-the-counter drug, leading to the use of this drug by normal healthy individual as an aphrodisiac. This un-prescribed and unsupervised usage of the drug, borders on the lines of addiction and drug abuse. Apart from recreational purposes, this drug can also be used in recovery from jet lags, increasing athletic performance and also extending shelf life of cut flowers, strawberries, broccoli and other perishables. Ideas for home science, anyone?

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Pfizer CEO Ian Read's Worn-out Argument Against Hillary Clinton's Plan to Curb Drug Prices

Pfizer CEO Ian Read's Worn-out Argument Against Hillary Clinton's Plan to Curb Drug Prices | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Pfizer Inc's chief executive on Thursday said recent proposals by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to curb "unjustified" US drug prices would dampen investment in innovative new drugs and ultimately hurt consumers.

"(They) would be very negative for innovation," Ian Read said in webcast from the annual Wells Fargo healthcare conference in Boston. He said Clinton's proposals, if ever approved, would ultimately lead to a one-payer government system of price controls on prescription medicines.

Critics of the pharmaceutical industry have long argued that drugmakers unfairly raise prices at will, making their products increasingly less accessible to patients. Drugmakers counter that it can cost $1 billion dollars or more to develop the typical drug and say they need to be reimbursed for the costs and risk-taking.

Read said he did not believe price controls like those seen in Europe would occur in the United States.

"A lot depends on the composition of the Senate and House," he added, referring to whether Republicans continue to dominate at least one branch of Congress and can be a counterweight to a potential Clinton White House.

Clinton last week said that if elected to the White House she would create an oversight panel to protect US consumers from large price hikes on long-available, lifesaving drugs and to import alternative treatments if necessary, adding to her pledges to rein in overall drug prices.

She said the oversight panel would be able to levy fines and impose penalties on manufacturers when there has been an unjustified "outlier" price increase on a long-available or generic drug, meaning an especially high increase.

Pharma Guy's insight:

It will stifle innovation, it will stifle innovation, it will stifle innovation.. how many times have we heard that tiresome, worn-out argument from pharma CEOs?


Also read “#Pharma CEOs Fill in the Drug Pricing Debate ‘Gaps’”;


“What’s sad is this,” Read insists. “When you look at the totality of the health care system, everybody says, ‘Oh, my God, we can’t afford what we’re spending on health care.’ But nobody looks on the other side of the ledger.”


“I understand the physicians saying, ‘Look, these prices are too high,’ ” Read says. But according to Read, these physicians -- to use an old Scottish phrase -- are talking' pish! “It’s because their patients can’t get access. That is an insurance issue,” says Read.


Read insists drug companies don’t make undue profits. He points out that, in terms of return on capital or return on assets, pharma is just average. 

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Lyrica's Success Story: Pfizer's Development & Marketing, University Research

Lyrica's Success Story: Pfizer's Development & Marketing, University Research | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Pfizer’s Lyrica leads drug sales for the company--but it’s also doing big things for another of the med’s developers.

Royalties on the nerve pain and seizure med have powered the endowment at Northwestern University--which helped develop Lyrica--to $10 billion, making it the eighth largest endowment in the U.S., Bloomberg reports.

Lyrica is responsible for about $1.4 billion of that tally, the news service notes.

The drug has been a strong performer for Pfizer in recent years. It edged out anti-TNF giant Enbrel for the top spot in the pharma giant’s innovative products portfolio, and totted up $3.66 billion in sales last year. Only the Prevnar franchise of vaccines--which hauled in $6.25 billion last year--was a bigger moneymaker for the company.

The Pfizer-Northwestern relationship isn’t an unusual one. Universities increasingly rely on royalty income to fund research, and the pharma industry increasingly relies on--and partners with--academia on early-stage R&D. Princeton University, for one, collected $524 million in licensing income after Eli Lilly cancer therapy Alimta took off.

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National Political Convention Viewers Saw a Lot of #pharma Ads

National Political Convention Viewers Saw a Lot of #pharma Ads | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Democratic politicians made a few jabs at the pharmaceutical industry at their convention this week, but viewers tuning in at home saw something of a counterargument during commercial breaks: a stream of ads promoting drugs — and the drug industry.


Pfizer, for instance, ran 25 ads across all six major networks carrying the Democratic National Convention, according to the media research firm


Some of those ads promoted Pfizer’s erectile disfunction drug Viagra. But others took a more unusual tack, emphasizing how hard it is to make medicines by tallying how many protein structures must be counted and sleepless nights endured before a new drug makes it to market. (Pfizer took out a full-page ad with a similar message in the New York Times as the convention kicked off on Monday.)


BIO, one of the big drug industry trade groups, offered a similar message about the importance of the pharmaceutical industry to delegates and dignitaries at the convention. An emotional video heralding the power of prescription drugs to extend lives played on the jumbotron at a charity batting practice Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies.


Aside from the Pfizer campaigns, other ads in heavy circulation included a spot for Celgene’s psoriasis drug Otezla, which ran 13 times on CNN and MSNBC. Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Victoza and AbbVie’s blockbuster drug Humira were also advertised heavily on MSNBC.


All told, about 140 TV ads touting prescription and over-the-counter medicines and their manufacturers ran while the Democratic National Convention was airing on broadcast and cable networks, according to


By comparison, about 60 such ads aired across networks during the Republican National Convention last week, the iSpot data show. But it’s hard to say whether drug advertisers made a bigger push this week, since coverage was scheduled differently, and the data from the RNC did not include ads broadcast on MSNBC.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Well, it could be just a chance to get in front of millions of older viewers that fit the drug industry's demographic sweet spot. In any case, pharma Enjoys Wide Bipartisan Support;

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Pfizer raises average wholesale price of 148 drugs by 6-13.5 per cent, including Viagra, made in Cork Ireland!

Pfizer raises average wholesale price of 148 drugs by 6-13.5 per cent, including Viagra, made in Cork Ireland! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Pharma firms have imposed price rises of several times the rate of inflation on more than 1,000 products in the United States, a new year move that risks a political backlash at a time of intense scrutiny on healthcare costs.


Pfizer, the largest stand-alone pharmaceutical company in the US, raised the average wholesale price of 148 drugs by between 6 and 13.5 per cent, according to data, with a mean average increase of 8.8 per cent.


The list included several of its best-known medicines such as Viagra, the erectile dysfunction treatment made in Cork, and Lyrica for nerve pain.


Other large drugmakers, including Allergan, GlaxoSmithKline, Gilead, Shire, Biogen, Teva, Baxter and Viiv also increased the US list prices of their medicines on January 1st, according to the data.


For the most part, pharmaceutical companies held the increases at less than 10 per cent, but they still tracked well ahead of inflation, currently 2.2 per cent in the US.


Some pharmaceutical groups implemented much larger increases. Hikma, the London-listed drugmaker, raised the price of several strengths of morphine – which was first marketed in the 1800s – by between 75 and 90 per cent, taking a 25-pack of vials from $30 (€24.50) to $58 (€50).


Further Reading:

  • “A Dick Move by Pfizer: Raises Price of Viagra & Other Drugs by as Much as 28% in One Year!”;
  • “Celgene ‘Gets Away with Murder!’ Raises Prices Again and Again.”;
  • “Mylan Execs ‘Untroubled’ by EpiPen Price Increases. Suggest Employees, Critics & Congress Go F**k Themselves”;
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Funny, Witty, Snarky Pharmaguy Memes About Pharma

The original, pre-internet definition of a meme is, “an element of a culture on system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means, especially imitation”.

Today, the “element of culture” is often an image or photo that has spread through social media or texting and which has been modified to include overlaid text. At least, that is how my son defines meme.

Over the years I have created numerous memes that I hope will be copied and passed on from one pharmaceutical marketer to another. This PowerPoint presentation includes many of my favorite memes and some insights on why I created them. Most of these memes have to be viewed in context of the news and events that inspired them. So for each one, I provide links back to the original social media post in which they appeared. Hopefully that will provide the necessary context.

Enjoy and feel free to spread them through your social media channels!

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Pfizer’s Prevnar 13 DTC Not Effective with “Baby Boomers” Who Are Doing All They Can to Avoid Its Side Effects

Pfizer’s Prevnar 13 DTC Not Effective with “Baby Boomers” Who Are Doing All They Can to Avoid Its Side Effects | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

When Pfizer was gearing up to launch Prevnar 13 in adults age 50 and over, it faced a few unique challenges.


[Guess first two.]


And third? The adults Pfizer was targeting—baby boomers—felt “invincible,” she said. “To them, age is a mindset, not a number. I think many of the adults in our cohort felt like they’re doing everything possible to stay healthy ... they’re not going to get pneumonia ... that’s for older adults.”


So instead of trying to convince them otherwise, the pharma giant “leaned into that” mindset. “We knew in order to break through to this audience, we needed to empower them and not scare them,” Christa Albeck, senior product manager at Pfizer Vaccines, explained.


The result was “One Step,” a spot that featured healthy adults getting one Prevnar shot between doing a single yoga pose and eating a single blueberry. It emphasized “the notion of one and done” to people who were “otherwise primarily healthy,” Post said. In terms of staying healthy, for Pfizer’s target consumers, “Prevnar 13 was an option that was relatively simple compared with the other things they were doing,” Albeck added.


In the meantime, though, sales of the blockbuster shot are suffering against its previous numbers. In last year's fourth quarter, Prevnar fell significantly short of Wall Street estimates; its $1.41 billion haul came in 25% below 2015's $1.86 billion tally (read “Vaccine Business is Very, Very Good for #Pharma, Especially Pfizer!”;


In 2015, the vaccine enjoyed a “high initial capture rate of the eligible population," Pfizer said in a statement in January, leaving less “catch-up opportunity” for 2016 and beyond.


[Meanwhile, Gilead has another strategy to deal with those "pesky" baby boomers. Interestingly, Gilead pictures them lunging around the forest like lazy sloths rather than  exercising in gyms and yoga classes! Read: “Gilead’s New Hep C TV Campaign Urges Baby Boomers to Get Off Their Butts & Get Tested”]


Pharma Guy's insight:

Pfizer's TV DTC ad spending for Prevnar13  was #2 among the top advertised drugs in 2015: $101.7 million. See 

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Over Half of the DTC Ad Spend by the Top 10 Advertised Drugs in 2016 was Made by Pfizer

Over Half of the DTC Ad Spend by the Top 10 Advertised Drugs in 2016 was Made by Pfizer | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Pharma companies’ ad spending jumped again last year to $5.6 billion, up from $5.2 billion in 2015, according to Nielsen data (read “Direct-to-Consumer #Pharma Drug Ad Spending at an All-Time High”; And Pfizer is in large part to thank.


The drugmaker led the top branded spending for Lyrica, with $174 million on fibromyalgia ads and another $170 million advertising its indication for diabetes-related pain, for a total of $344 million. Lyrica was trailed by another Pfizer drug, rheumatoid arthritis-fighter Xeljanz, at $189 million, and Eli Lilly’s diabetes treatment Trulicity, with $185 million spent. And Pfizer didn't stop there; five of the top nine meds with the highest spending are Pfizer brands.

Pharma Guy's insight:

The total spending of the TOP 10 drugs in 2016 was $1.59 billion. At least $880 million of that (55%) was spent by Pfizer.

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Big Pharma Leaders Endorse Trump’s Protectionist Policies to Compensate for “Innovation Woes,” Says Former Industry Exec

Four pharma CEOs (from Lilly, Merck, Pfizer and Celgene) have signed a letter to congressional leaders voicing support for a tax reform that would let them repatriate, under advantageous tax treatment, tens of billions of dollars parked overseas.


Their letter, which was co-signed by several CEOs of non-pharma companies, can be seen here. In plain English, it translates as: "Our tax system is a mess. High taxes put us at a comparative disadvantage to our international competitors. We must nullify the advantage we gave them by imposing punitive border taxes."


What is worrisome is that the pharma leaders' endorsement of protectionist policies fits in a pattern of addressing their companies' innovation woes by relying on strategies that produce none of it—typically financial ploys, lobbying, and regulatory gimmicks. They include recurrent mergers & acquisitions, tax inversions, share buy-backs, runaway prices, coupon games, orphan designations for some of their biggest drugs, patent fortresses around aging biologicals, and arcane regulations in international treaties to blunt competition. It may buy them some time, but that is little relief. What they need is innovation. Unless they start producing more of it, the rest is delusion.


We expect better of our pharma CEOs. For now though, these get a dunce cap.


Pharma Guy's insight:

Further Reading:

  • “Gilead Dodges Taxes While Gouging Prices, Says Advocacy Group”;
  • “Pfizer, U.S. Law Breaker & Tax Evader, Launches an Ad Campaign to Improve Its Rep”;
  • “Tax Evader #Pharma Mylan Reprimanded for Doing Little to Stop Use of Its Drug for Executions in U.S.”;
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We're Not Murders, Says Pfizer CEO Ian Read

We're Not Murders, Says Pfizer CEO Ian Read | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Forget what you've heard about pharma in the court of public opinion lately, Pfizer CEO Ian Read says. The “ethical” industry he knows is nothing like notorious ex-CEO Martin Shkreli's work, and certainly isn't "getting away with murder" as President-elect Donald Trump claims.

“Most of the problem of reputation is coming from those that I don’t consider part of the ethical pharmaceutical business,” Read said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, calling out Mylan, former Turing Pharma CEO Shkreli and Valeant Pharmaceuticals by name.

Read argued Tuesday that a “terribly complicated and not transparent” healthcare system in the U.S. has led to the public’s distrust in pharma. Elsewhere in the world, such as in Asia or Latin America, trust in drugmakers is much higher, he pointed out.

The problem? Read figures one component is “perception.” He said the “ethical” industry does research, prices responsibly and seeks to recover its R&D costs. Not mincing his words, he said another segment of the pharma business [marketing?] doesn’t do research, and that sector has done a great deal to mar public opinion.

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Celebrex Is Found to Be No Riskier for Hearts Than Other Pain Drugs, But Still Risky!

Celebrex Is Found to Be No Riskier for Hearts Than Other Pain Drugs, But Still Risky! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

The drugs seemed miraculous when they were introduced in 1999, and they soon became blockbusters, with billion-dollar sales. Vioxx, made by Merck, and Celebrex, made by Pfizer, could quell pain and inflammation just as well as drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen, but they did not cause ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding.


But then, the shocker. A Merck clinical trial asking if Vioxx could also prevent colon cancer revealed that the drug increased the risk of heart attacks, and the company pulled it off the market in 2004. Ever since, a question has hung over Celebrex. Did it cause heart attacks, too?


A decade ago, the Food and Drug Administration asked Pfizer to find out. Now, at long last, the resulting clinical trial is done. Most medical researchers, including the study’s principal investigator, thought Celebrex would be riskier than either ibuprofen or naproxen. Instead, it was at least no worse and may even be safer than the alternatives.


“This is definitely a striking finding,” said Dr. Michael Lauer, a cardiologist at the National Institutes of Health who was not associated with the study.


An estimated two million people in the United States take Celebrex or generic celecoxib, said Dr. Milton Pressler, a cardiologist in charge of clinical affairs for Pfizer Essential Health. The drug is available only by prescription; as the trial dragged on its patent expired, so now generic companies also sell it.


The study involved 24,000 people with arthritis who were at high risk for heart disease or already had it. A third of them were randomly assigned to take Celebrex, a third to take naproxen and a third to take ibuprofen. The doses were equivalent and neither the participants nor the investigators knew who was taking what.


The results were published online in the New England Journal of Medicine on Sunday to coincide with a presentation at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association by Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic, who directed the new study.


He and others emphasized that the findings apply only to people taking the drugs every day for months or years and who are at high risk for heart disease or already have it. They do not apply to someone who pops an occasional ibuprofen like Advil for a pulled muscle or takes a naproxen such as Aleve for a headache.

Pharma Guy's insight:

The original headline of this article - "Celebrex Is Found to Be No Riskier for Hearts Than Other Pain Drugs" is misleading. All NSAIDs are risky according to the FDA. Read “FDA Warns of Increased Chance of Heart Attack or Stroke Caused by NSAIDs - No Exceptions!”;

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Astellas Mimics Pfizer & Launches TV Ad Campaign to Boost Its Reputation

Astellas Mimics Pfizer & Launches TV Ad Campaign to Boost Its Reputation | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Pharma company Astellas has launched a corporate branding ad with CNN that showcases the work of its employees to help patients.


The ad is part of a long-term corporate branding strategy it has worked on for several years. The company worked with CNN to develop the ad and with Edelman on corporate reputation and branding.


"Our company is only 11 years old and we are the product of a merger of two other Japanese companies," said Jeff Winton, chief communications officer at Astellas. "Obviously from a corporate branding standpoint, whenever you start over instead of using one of the predecessor’s names you’re starting from scratch again. We want to make sure our name was recognized, well known, and respected."


The spot is running during on the show "CNN Heroes" on CNN and HLN in the U.S. and on CNN International through March 2017.


While CNN’s ratings are higher in an election year, Winton said that wasn’t the only reason Astellas partnered with the network.


"’CNN Heroes’ is the part of CNN that makes people feel really good," Winton said. "It’s the unsung heroes. We tried it last year, working with this particular segment of CNN, and it worked really well."


The ad showcases Astellas’ employees and how the work they do helps patients. Winton said the target audience is the average CNN watcher, but it is also intended for Astellas employees, who Winton said are the company’s "brand ambassadors." The spot is also running on screens in Astellas’ U.S. headquarters for them to see, he added.


Earlier this year, Pfizer began a similar effort celebrating the work put into developing new drugs (read “Pfizer, U.S. Law Breaker & Tax Evader, Launches an Ad Campaign to Improve Its Rep”; Pharmaceutical companies are promoting the work of their staffers in an attempt to boost not only their individual reputations, but that of the industry as a whole in the wake of a decline in reputation largely due to pricing scandals, Winton noted.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Re: Pfizer – it may do better boosting its campaign if it were to lower the prices of vaccines. For more on that, read “Doctors Without Borders to Pfizer: We Don't Want Your ‘Free’ Vaccines. We Want Lower Prices!”;  The probable answer from Ian Read: "Sorry, guys. We got to focus on imperatives: Return on Capital." See the meme here:


Meanwhile, Astellas drugs have their own pricing issues, which are hurting the company's reputation. Read, for example, “Bitter Fruit: Astellas Taxpayer-funded Cancer Drug Costs $129,269 a Year”;

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A Trip Down Viagra’s Marketing Memory Lane

A Trip Down Viagra’s Marketing Memory Lane | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

When Pfizer launched Viagra, in 1998, it did so with eyes wide open about the immediate impact the drug would have — on patients, of course, but also on physicians, the health media, and purveyors of late-night chuckles. What the company may not have anticipated was the longer-term influence that Viagra's wild success would wield on pharma marketing as a discipline.


Marketers who worked on the drug over the years, however, were not blind to the phenomenon that was brewing. “Right from the outset, it felt as if we were working on a big brand,” recalls Michael Sanzen, then VP, group copy supervisor at Cline Davis & Mann, who worked with VP, group account supervisor Ken Begasse on a broad range of HCP- and patient-communication tasks during Viagra's infancy (the two would cofound Concentric Health Experience in 2002, where they continue to work today).


“It was one of the first times in the pharma space where we were really ideating on what a brand needed to be based on the customer perspective, not solely on the product perspective,” Sanzen says.


McCann HumanCare SVP, group creative director Doug Welch, who co-led his agency's successful pitch for a big piece of Viagra business in 2004, agrees. “It felt as if we were in the middle of something big,” he says. “Would we be quite where we are today in the candor with which we discuss sensitive conditions? I honestly doubt it.”


While Pfizer declined an interview re­quest about Viagra's enduring legacy, a handful of marketers who worked on the campaign during its early days were happy to take a trip down memory lane. Without further ado, here are the seven ways that Pfizer's marketing of Viagra proved transformational — for Pfizer, sure, but also for the business as a whole.


  1. It provided the blueprint for medicalizing a supposed lifestyle condition.
  2. It created a new therapeutic category.
  3. It enabled more candid conversations with physicians.
  4. It ushered in the era of the celebrity spokesperson.
  5. It obliterated the media's reluctance to cover “embarrassing” health-related stories.
  6. It freed drug marketers to rethink their sales materials.
  7. It made a whole lot of careers.


More … 

Pharma Guy's insight:

You might also be interested in these memories of Viagra marketing:


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The Miracle of "Compound" Drug Price Increases a la Valeant & Pfizer

The Miracle of "Compound" Drug Price Increases a la Valeant & Pfizer | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

In response to intensifying criticism over drug prices, Allergan chief executive Brent Saunders promised not to raise prices by more than single-digit percentage points. So far, no other head of a large drug maker has spoken publicly about this notion or agreed to do the same thing.


Yet some companies may adopt this approach quietly — and push the envelope in the process.


How so? One way is to raise prices on drugs by 9.9 percent. And this is what Valeant Pharmaceuticals did last week.


The drug maker, which has been widely vilified for buying older medicines and then jacking up the prices to sky-high levels, increased list prices for three eye medicines by exactly 9.9 percent, according to Wells Fargo analyst David Maris.


Of course, such a price hike pales in comparison to the 525 percent and 212 percent increases Valeant took on a pair of lifesaving heart drugs on the same day the company acquired the medicines in early 2015. But given the public anger over rising costs for prescription drugs, this kind of maneuver is a convenient way to avoid unpleasant scrutiny and still goose revenue.


The “9.9 percent increase versus an even 10 percent seems very odd and may be an attempt to stay under the radar of managed care plans and states looking out for double-digit price increases,” Maris wrote in an investor note.


He noted the three eye drugs represented just $1.2 million in combined sales in the second quarter, which is a small piece of $2.4 billion in company-wide sales. But the company is under pressure to jump-start revenue, suggesting more 9.9 price hikes can be expected. “While insignificant,” Maris opined, “we believe this may be a sign of things to come.”


We asked the company why it chose to raise prices by 9.9 percent and not 10 percent, but did not receive a reply.


The 10 percent threshold has taken on more than symbolic weight, though.


A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers last week introduced a bill that would require drug makers to justify their pricing and provide a breakdown of their costs before raising prices on certain products by more than 10 percent. The legislation largely mimics bills that have been introduced in more than a dozen states, although only Vermont has passed such a law.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Conside this: If Valeant were to raise prices by 9.9% twice per year as has been the general practice of other pharma companies (e.g., read “Big #Pharma Pfizer et al Sneak In Multiple Drug Price Hikes Per Year”; the results would be an average 23% increase per year. The cumulative effect adds up – for Valeant’s treasury and the consumer pocketbook.

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Branded as Well As Unbranded Vaccine Ads Are the Scariest!

Branded as Well As Unbranded Vaccine Ads Are the Scariest! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

When STATnews reporter Rebecca Robbins (@rebeccadrobbins) interviewed me about what's behind ominous unbranded "disease awareness" ads, I opined that if you’re a drug maker, “you don’t want to attach a dark image to the brand — so you’re attaching this dark imagery to a medical condition instead,” which leaves room for a branded ad that shows “the bright side: that there’s this product that can save the day” (Read "#Pharma 'Disease Awareness' Ads: Are They 'Stealthy' Fear Mongering Set Pieces?").

That "conventional wisdom" or "rule" -- if it is one -- obviously does NOT apply to many ads for vaccines, especially lately. Take, for example, the TV ad for Trumenba - Pfizer's Meningitis B vaccine. I saw this ad for the first time last night:

As described by the Trumenba ad "follows the series of events that lead up to this young man being in a hospital with Meningitis B. The source of the infection is traced back to a party where the teenager shared food, drinks and a kiss with friends. Trumenba offers a vaccine to prevent future spread of the disease." Bummer! You can't even enjoy an innocent kiss without fearing for your life! This is obviously a "dark" and scary ad aimed at the parents of teenagers for whom this vaccine is indicated (up to age 25).

Why are scare tactics the marketing strategy du jour in branded and unbranded vaccine ads?

It wasn't always this way. More...

Pharma Guy's insight:

Related article: “Merck Uses Humor & Fear to Promote Zostavax Shingles Vaccine”; and  “Gallery of Scary Pharma Industry Advertising”;

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Pharma Goes for Gold in TV Ads During the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Pharma Goes for Gold in TV Ads During the Rio 2016 Olympic Games | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Olympic Games marketers have a long history of crafting emotional TV ads that “soft sell” brands or companies. Themes like determination, family, triumph over adversity, and patriotism often result in heartwarming, dramatic and even cinematic TV commercials.

This year, some pharma marketers are joining in and following some of those more traditionally emotional Olympic ad themes.

Of the 6 pharma ads tracked by that aired during the opening Olympic Games weekend, three were corporate or disease awareness TV spots that fit the subtler and more emotional mold.

Take Pfizer’s ($PFE) anthemic “Before it Became a Medicine,” which traces the long journey of a drug going from idea to compound to an actual pill. The emotional play is strong as the ad ends, when a young father taking that pill says, as he scoops his young son into his arms, “and so after it became a medicine, someone who couldn’t be cured, could be. Me.”

Merck ($MRK) ran a new version of its poignant disease awareness ad for HPV vaccinations during primetime Olympic coverage, too. The new 1-minute ad features both a young woman and a young man who talk about now having cancer caused by HPV. In a series of age regression photos, both go back in time to their pre-teen selves. Along the backward time lapse, they ask, “who knew” that there was something that could have protected them long before they were exposed to HPV. In the final shot of each story, now as 12-year-olds, they ask “Did you know? Mom? Dad?”

The other emotionally fraught ad came from Mylan ($MYL), which re-aired its relatively new “Face Your Risk” ad addressing the dangers of severe food allergies. In it, a young woman gasps for breath after eating a brownie with peanut butter in it. As her friends panic and dial 911, the girl looks into the mirror at her swollen face now covered in hives and then passes out.

Even some of the branded pharma ads that aired the first weekend leaned Olympic.

Novo Nordisk’s ($NVO) TV ad for its diabetes treatment Victoza featured Olympic gold medal basketball player Dominque Wilkins, which is a direct tie, but Wilkins also talks about the “moment of truth” for people like himself with Type 2 diabetes. Pfizer’s commercial for rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz XR goes the family route with an ad that shows a mom being awakened by her adorable and active young daughter before they going about their active day with a model-handsome and loving dad.

Pharma Guy's insight:

For  more about the Pfizer's "Before It Became a Medicine" campaign, read “Pfizer, U.S. Law Breaker & Tax Evader, Launches an Ad Campaign to Improve Its Rep”; 


Perhaps August will even surpass July as the biggest month for pharma TV ads. For more on that, read “In July #Pharma Spent Money on TV Advertising Like There Was No Tomorrow!”;

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