Pfizer’s healthy business

Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, has added a new variant to its growing UK strategy of raising its profile on public health issues. First  it “co-branded” with regulators to warn the public about the dangers of counterfeit drugs - many of which also happen to be internet-purchased fake versions of its own lucrative blockbusters.

Now it has launched a new awareness campaign around the importance of lowered cholesterol in conjunction with Heart UK, a British charity. A Pfizer-sponsored leaflet provides information on heart disease, including on its own product Lipitor, the world’s top-selling prescription medicine.

The company does not fall into the trap of preferentially pushing its own product, since it lays out simply in alphabetical order the details the entire class of relevant drugs, called statins. It just so happens that the “generic” prescribing name for Lipitor is atorvastatin, which puts it at the top of the list.

There again, in a sign of its independence, Heart UK’s own website lists the statins in a different order, beginning with simvastatin (Zocor), typically the National Health Service’s drug of first preference, if only because it is no longer patented and therefore available much more cheaply. than Lipitor

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Margaret McCartney is a Glasgow-based GP and FT Weekend columnist. She started writing for the Life and Arts section in 2005 and moved to the magazine in 2008. She also has her own blog: www.margaretmccartney.com/blog

Clive Cookson has been a science journalist for the whole of his working life. He joined the FT in 1987. Clive, the FT's science editor, picks out the research that everyone should know about. He also discusses key policy issues, from R&D funding to science education.

Andrew Jack is pharmaceuticals correspondent, covering the industry and public health issues. He has been a journalist with the FT for 19 years, based in London, Paris and Moscow