Pfizer's Effort To Pound Altria May Work

Stocks:  (PFE)(MO)

Pfizer’s world headquarters is a five minute walk from the executive offices of Altria, the owner of cigarett behemouth Philip Morris. The two companie, at one level, have become enemies.

Pfizer introduced a drug, Chantix, is not doing well. Altria can add that to the list of things that is keeping its stock near all-times highs above $80.

But, Pfizer’s marketing approach, which is to soft-sell the drug in a market that is skeptical about smoking remedies, may begin to push up sales, and some estimates says the drug could do $1 billion annually if things go well.Part of Pfizer’s novel approach is to help doctors develop a multifaceted treatment for smoking patients. The drug is only a piece of this. And, doctors appear to appreciate it.

If the drug is sucessful, it would be a blow to Big Tobacco. After side-stepping most of the lawsuits over whether they were liable of tobacco-related deaths, Altria and others are pushing out record earnings. Altria also appears to be doing well in its effort to keep planitiff in a suit over “light” cigarettes and the damage to smokers from gaining class action status. The news drove Altria’s stock up again.

But, perhaps science can accomplish what the legal system cannot. A drug that helps smokers quit could get a big foothold in the US, but may smoking deaths are now overseas in place like China and Japan. The governments in those countries have a national health problem. Cigarettes.

Prizer to the rescue? Altria better hope not.

Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at [email protected]. He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.

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