Wyeth shops FluMist DTC acc't

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Wyeth is conducting a review on a direct-to-consumer account for a flu vaccine, FluMist, that could replace the annual flu shot for some people.

Spending is difficult to pin down and will likely hinge on how successfully consumers adopt the anti-influenza nasal spray, which may be available this winter. But a DTC launch that carries high expectations can spend in the $40 million to $50 million range or more.

The drug company, which until recently was known as American Home Products, co-markets FluMist with MedImmune. Numerous agencies were asked to pitch for a prescription product, but were not told specifically it was FluMist, people familiar with the matter said. Agencies involved in the first pitch include Grey Global Group's Grey Advertising and Havas' EuroRSCG MVBMS, New York. Three or four finalists are expected to be named this week. New York's AAR Partners is the consultant.

A Wyeth spokeswoman said the company does not comment on agency searches.

Flu Fighters

In the winter of 1999-2000, Glaxo Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline) and Hoffmann-La Roche released a flood of ads promoting launches of new flu-fighters Relenza and Tamiflu, respectively. (FluMist as a vaccine is thought to be considerably more effective.)

Neither Relenza nor Tamiflu, which are used to treat flu symptoms rather than prevent flu, has proved to be a blockbuster, however. Ad spending has waned on Tamiflu and was eliminated entirely for Relenza, which faced some safety issues.

Wyeth and MedImmune are waiting for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to clear FluMist for marketing. Last month, the FDA asked for additional information. The Wyeth spokeswoman said the company is responding and remains "hopeful" FluMist will be available this flu season.

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