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Shop Sought for Revamped Drug

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NEW YORK -- Wyeth Pharmaceuticals is searching for an agency to handle ad duties on a new generation of the estrogen-replacement drug Premarin, sources said.

The new formula, Premarin TMG, is expected to hit the market in 2004, according to an RFP from the Wayne, Pa., company.

The RFP, which was due back at the client on July 24, did not specify a budget for the assignment, which is said to focus on doctor-targeted advertising. There is, however, a small, direct-to-consumer component. These types of drugs are prescribed to menopausal women.

Ad spending on the current version of Premarin has fluctuated wildly in recent years, from nearly $40 million in 1998-when the last TV spot ran-to just under $2 million last year, according to CMR.

In the past, the client has worked with the healthcare divisions of major shops. Saatchi & Saatchi's Klemtner handled trade ads for the brand, while Bates Healthworld, a division of Cordiant Communications Group's Healthworld, worked on the consumer piece, a Wyeth representative confirmed. The rep, however, declined to say if the shops still work on the brands. The rep also declined to discuss the review. The agencies either declined comment or could not be reached.

Premarin has come under fire recently in the wake of a study by the National Cancer Institute that was published by The Journal of the American Medical Association. The study suggested, in part, that long-term use of the drug increases the risk of ovarian cancer.

Wyeth, however, has maintained that the risks associated with Premarin are small and that there's no definitive answer to questions about an ovarian-cancer risk.

Based on RFP submissions, Wyeth is expected to narrow its search to a shorter list of semi-finalists. Then, based on credentials meetings, the company will cut again to a handful of finalists, the RFP says. A timetable for a decision was not available.

Wyeth expects Premarin TMG to generate $35 million in sales in its first year on the market, $78 million in year two and $300 million in total by the end of the decade.