Pfizer's free Viagra plan for jobless could cost company $1 billion in revenue

In a marketing move which is already getting huge free attention -- including (on a tiny scale) this blog post -- Pfizer (PFE) has decided to give away its products -- including Lipitor and Viagra -- to the jobless. Is this a waste of shareholder money or will the benefits of the free publicity offset the lost revenue?

First, let's examine Pfizer's offer. It will give people who lost jobs since January 1st free drugs -- more than 70 of its prescription drug products -- for up to a year. To qualify, a person must be an unemployed, uninsured American and have been on the Pfizer drug for at least three months.

How much revenue will Pfizer lose? The amount could conceivably be as high as $1 billion. How so? Between 2004 through 2008, Pfizer's patient assistance programs helped 5.1 million people get 51 million Pfizer prescriptions for free or at reduced cost, with a total value of $4.8 billion.