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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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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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 Guys 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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