Apparently, Pfizer’s much-touted “roundtable” discussion with the media, which was held yesterday at its NYC headquarters, was not really round at all! I say “apparently” because although I was invited, I chose not to attend (more about that below). I say “not really round at all” because of comments like this from the journalists that did attend:

“The meeting, which lasted about 90 minutes, was largely uneventful, in so far as three Pfizer execs sat at a table in front of approximately 30 journalists and analysts,” said Ed Silverman of the NJ Star Ledger’s Pharmalot (see “The Pfizer Media ‘Roundtable’ For Chantix“).

Ed puts Roundtable in quotes in the title of his post and accurately describes the layout, but does not belabor the point that there was actually no roundtable at all.

The main selling point of Pfizer’s “initiative” was the roundtable format. It appears that Pfizer knows how to take reservations for a roundtable, but does not know how to deliver a roundtable. And the delivery of the roundtable is really the most important part of calling for a “roundtable discussion.”

If I wanted to sit in an audience in front of a dais of experts and not at a roundtable AMONG them, I could have attended what was once called simply a “press conference!” Not that there’s anything wrong about being invited to attend a press conference. But if I had traveled for 2 hours each way from from my home office to and from this event in NYC only to be part of a press conference rather than a roundtable discussion, I would have been mightily pissed off!

Apparently, neither Ed Silverman nor Avery Johnson at the WSJ Health Blog were pissed off — but they had a much shorter commute. Avery, I am sure, was just a short cab ride away that the WSJ paid for anyway! Maybe that’s why his post was titled “Pfizer Clears Air at Chantix Roundtable” — and he didn’t even put Roundtable in quotes!

I guess the closer you are geographically to your news source, the more sympathetic you are to their side of the story! After all, Jeff Kindler is only a short cab ride away from the Wall Street Journal offices (or did those offices also move to Hoboken with the rest of Wall Street?).

Apparently I was missed!
I do want to thank Pfizer, however, for inviting me inside their tent, roundtable or not. I did email Pfizer to say that I regretted not being able to attend. I didn’t get a reply to that e-mail, but Ray Kerins, Vice President, Global Media Relations at Pfizer, submitted this comment to my blog post entitled “Pfizer Invites This Blogger to Chantix Media Roundtable Discussion“:

“Based on the poem that you posted last week [here], we know that you were anxious to attend our media roundtable today. We’re sorry that you couldn’t make it. Would be happy to set up some time with you to speak with some of our medical and safety folks to address your questions.”

Thanks, Ray. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it also, but not so sorry if you really had a roundtable discussion (did I mention that I expected a roundtable?). [I was completely wiped out after my Wednesday night Networking Dinner Meeting in Princeton, NJ. Which was a great success by the way!]

But let’s put the roundness of the table aside. The important point is to have a “discussion” and your comment is a start. And I WOULD like to speak with some of your medical and safety folks. Here are the points I wish to discuss:

  1. Will the current perceived safety problems of Chantix require some kind of innovative DTC advertising like that for Celebrex? [Sorry I missed that part of your presentation in front of reporters yesterday.]
  2. What about some form of new media interaction with patients such as a Chantix Blog similar to the alli blog? Is it time for Pfizer to engage patients in that kind of transparent discussion of the risks vs. benefits? I have said before (see “Chantix: Opportunity for Social Marketing Lost?“) that smoking cessation support is a perfect application for Web 2.0 (aka, social networking) technology like blogs. Who knows? If Pfizer had such a blog from the start it may have been able to more quickly and effectively address this issue with patients and physicians and head off the bad press — not the good WSJ press — at the pass!
  3. Is Pfizer planning any post-marketing surveillance studies to investigate the Chantix/suicide link?
  4. When does Pfizer expect the FDA to finish their review of AERs?
  5. Is Pfizer planning to look at databases (such as GPRD in the UK) to further investigate these side effects?

It appears from the reports on WSJ Blog and Pharmalot that the answer to questions #3 and #5 are “No”: “Pfizer cautions that real-world, post-market reports aren’t the gold standard of clinical research and shouldn’t be interpreted as such.” (WSJ Health Blog). Why then, does the FDA encourage and often require these studies, especially in return for quick approval of new drugs or indications?

I look forward to a personal “discussion” of these issues with the Pfizer “folks.” Thanks in advance.

P.S. I will be taking a few days off “down the shore” and won’t have much Internet/email access until Tuesday or Wednesday next week.