Last week, Pfizer mounted an aggressive defense of Chantix after the pill was linked to988 serious injuries and a host of side effects, including heart irregularities, seizures, severe skin reactions, acute myocardial infarction, aggression and suicide. Newspaper ads were run and a media 'roundtable' was scheduled with Joe Feczko, Pfizer's chief medical officer, among others.
But across the world in India, smokers may not know about the problems from reading the official web site for Champix, the name for the pill in many other markets, unless they register as a Champs club member. In conjunction with the World No Tobacco Day this past Saturday, Pfizer launched the site, which implores smokers to sign up for its club.
However, none of the side effects that have caused such a stir are readily visible on the site, unless personal info is provided, including name, address, age, phone number, e-mail address, the name of the doctor who provided a prescription and the date the prescription was written. And the disclaimer features language that protects Pfizer without mentioning the club member's privacy.
Once you register, then you can find info about safety, side effects and warnings not to drive or operate machinery while using the pill. However, an outdated page entitled ''Patient Information' doesn't list any neuropsychiatric side effect. By contrast, the primary Chantix site - type in the name on Google to get to this one - has safety info clearly marked on the first page.
A Pfizer spokesman says the site is going to be updated, but was unable to explain why the site requires registering with personal info before risks are visible or whether that requirement will remain in place.
We confess that we have no idea how many specialized web sites for prescription-drug products are designed the same way. And we understand that standards, expectations and laws differ among countries. But safety info should be as readily available as benefits - and certainly without having to first divulge personal info. That's called putting patients first, a goal pharma is always claiming. Pfizer should join that club and change its web site in India.