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Pfizer Anti-Smoking Drug Demand Soars

From UPI Business News (January 4, 2011)

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer says it underestimated demand for its anti-smoking drug among Japanese seeking to quit cigarettes.

Demand for the drug Chantix, which is marketed as Champix in Japan, soared when a large number of smokers decided to quit after the Japanese government, concerned about public health and needing to raise revenues, decided to hike the tax on cigarettes in October, The New York Times reported Monday.

Japan is a nation of heavy smokers and lax anti-smoking laws and the availability of inexpensive cigarettes has helped promote the habit.

The Times said the tax hike pushed the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes from 300 yen (about $3.60) to over 400 yen, with about 70 yen going for taxes.

The hike should have come as a big sales boost for Pfizer, but The Times said the company found itself with inadequate supplies. Two weeks after the tax hike, it was forced to suspend sales to new customers while it increased production, temporarily affecting millions of dollars of likely sales of Champix.

"An extraordinary number of people decided to quit, and our reading of the situation was off. We expected more demand, but not to this extent," Kinji Iwase, Pfizer spokesman in Tokyo, was quoted as saying.

The Times said surveys have shown many smokers in Japan who want to quit prefer Champix. In the United States, reports of possible side effects led regulators to require that Chantix carry a strong warning.

The company plans more studies to determine whether the side effects are due to the drug or are symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.


Posted: January 2011