"There was a perception that the drugs already out there were doing the job," says Ms. Gulfo, senior director of cardiovascular marketing for Warner-Lambert's Parke-Davis division. "Our rallying cry was: We need to create dissatisfaction with the 'statin' quo."
Ms. Gulfo acknowledges the mantra may have been a "little corny," but it apparently worked.
Either way-be it disenchantment with the status quo (Bristol-Myers Squibb's Pravachol, Novartis Corp.'s Lescol and Merck & Co.'s Mevacor and Zocor) or increased physician and patient satisfaction with the new drug on the block-Lipitor made a spectacular debut in 1997 with $582 million in sales, according to IMS Health.
Last year, the company avoided a sophomore jinx by more than doubling sales to $1.54 billion to take over the lead in the $3 billion statin-though hardly stationary-market.
Ms. Gulfo and others expect sales of Lipitor, which is co-marketed by Warner-Lambert and Pfizer, to continue to grow. She says figures show about 6 million Americans take cholesterol-lowering drugs, while some 30 million could benefit from them.
Driving some of Lipitor's success is a physician-aimed marketing message Ms. Gulfo helped craft that touts the drug's effectiveness at the starting dosage, meaning that patients may have a greater chance of positive results early.
IMS Health figures, provided by Warner-Lambert, show Lipitor was used in 34.9% of "new patient starts" in January 1998, the figure increased to 40.2% by January 1999.
Ms. Gulfo also was involved with Warner-Lambert's joining with the American Heart Association last year to launch a high-cholesterol-awareness initiative.
"Now when patients come in and ask for it, it's like a household name," Ms.