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Got Your Cipro Key Chain? Collectors Are Scrambling

Promotional goodies regarding the antibiotic are being swallowed up on EBay.


People anxious about anthrax may have a hard time wheedling a Cipro prescription from a doctor, but they will have no problem picking up promotional memorabilia online for Bayer's coveted antibiotic.

"I want to be the first kid on my block with a Cipro pin," said Jodi Perper of Land O' Lakes, Fla., who has spent $1,500 buying terror-attack-related collectibles on EBay, the online auction site.

Her collection includes Cipro pens, Cipro writing pads, a Cipro switchblade key chain and Cipro hand lotion and lip balm. (The ointments don't contain the drug.) She lost out on a Cipro luggage tag. Other Cipro items offered in more than 70 auctions to date include sweatshirts, a clock and even a "Cipro Drug Rep Promo Collectors Set," complete with playing cards, a set of highlighters, hand gel and a pen, which went for $31.

The goods date back to a time, impossibly long ago, before Cipro was a household name, when pharmaceutical company sales reps needed to woo doctors with trinkets so they would remember the brand.

EBay sellers got their hands on the Cipro goods either by working in doctors' offices or having relatives who do.

Bayer did not return a request for comment, but industry sources say the wide line of Cipro products is nothing out of the ordinary in the pharmaceutical industry. David Ores, a Manhattan physician, says drug companies track prescriptions that each doctor writes, and hand out goodies when they pitch alternatives or quiz the doctor on patient reactions.

"It's like a giant, organized, global marketing campaign dressed up as a cuddly-wuddly sweatshirt," Ores said.

Cipro goody buyers and sellers alike say they're not worried about looking ghoulish, especially since the proceeds for some items are earmarked for the victims' families through EBay's Auction for America program. "I guess it's how I soothe my soul," Perper said.

Eight EBay buyers started a bidding war over a metal Cipro pen and sent the price up to $52, the most expensive Cipro-themed item to date. An apothecary jar went for $33.50. An empty Cipro bottle fetched $5.50 for someone who also sells empty Viagra bottles.

Richard Briones-Colman, an Albuquerque public defender, drew 451 window shoppers to a Cipro tote bag that was originally given to his partner, a doctor. But no one bid till Perper came along, charmed by his promotional copy: "Good luck amulet? Fashion accessory? You decide! How much cooler could you look strutting about with your important papers or your lunch in this safe safe bag? ... Go shopping fearlessly with your Cipro Sack."

Briones-Colman said that before its debut on EBay, his Cipro bag was just lying around the house. "I looked at it one morning and thought, 'Ka-ching!' " he said.

The biggest threat to the continued marketability of Cipro goods is the growing use of other anthrax treatments such as generic doxycycline. But so far no promotional materials for that drug have surfaced online.

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