Pfizer says speedy decisions have helped its recovery

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Fresh off some big organizational changes this year, Pfizer is eager to demonstrate how its willingness to operate differently has paid off. At a meeting with analysts last week, the company touted some examples it says show the changes have taken root.

In January Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler enacted a plan to rearrange the firm’s US business structure into five separately managed units and to push decision-making authority down through the product groups. The moves were designed to help the behemoth respond more nimbly to market challenges, the biggest of which was its 2006 setback with torcetrapib, the experimental compound it had hoped would make up for the impending loss of Lipitor exclusivity around 2010.

Pfizer’s culture is already transformed, said Dr Olivier Brandicourt, who oversees the Pratt unit, which includes cardiovascular and metabolic products.

The unexpected loss of US patent exclusivity for hypertension pill Norvasc in March—six months prior to its scheduled expiration—was an early test for the new-look organization.

“Although caught surprised, our marketing team quickly mobilized and worked with our Greenstone division to launch our own generic version in record time,” Brandicourt said at the meeting hosted by Goldman Sachs.
He added that Pfizer created a new managed care contracting strategy for Caduet, which combines Norvasc and cholesterol reducer Lipitor, and secured management approval for it in five days, “nearly an impossible feat for the old Pfizer.”

Another sign that Pfizer is becoming nimbler: it launched five new indications for Lipitor in only three weeks.
“In the past, it would have taken us months to prepare the training material, to develop the visual aids our reps would take to the field, and to create the curriculum necessary to get our sales professionals proficient in the new indications,” he said. Such a delay means months of lost revenue, and, in the case of a medicine as prescribed as Lipitor, a huge loss of revenue.

The new indications, which expanded the label to reduce incidence of heart attack and risk of stroke, were important because they gave Lipitor an edge over rivals Vytorin, from Merck-Schering-Plough, and AstraZeneca’s Crestor.

“Our training material were a little less glossy than usual, but the information was the same,” Brandicourt said.

In April the firm launched spot TV and radio ads trumpeting the new Lipitor benefits, featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the artificial heart. The ads were designed to increase new patient starts and minimize patient switches, Brandicourt said.

While operating in shorter timeframes has helped it respond more quickly to opportunities, branded competitors as well as the arrival of generic Zocor last year, are chipping away at market share.
“We continue to expect Lipitor’s full-year 2007 worldwide revenue performance within a range of modest growth to modest decline,” he said.

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