By Arun Sudhaman

LONDON: Pfizer has selected Hill & Knowlton to handle a lucrative international assignment, focusing on pain relief drug Lyrica.

The Holmes Report understands that H&K scooped the business, which spans Europe and Canada, following a pitch that featured several global PR agencies.

Lyrica, which treats nerve pain, is a key part of Pfizer’s pain portfolio – along with arthritis drug Celebrex. The pharmaceutical giant has taken steps to bolster its pain portfolio – buying drugmaker King Pharmaceuticals last year – as it prepares for the loss of exclusivity on its money-spinning Lipitor cholesterol pill this year.

“In line with our corporate policy we do not discuss details of our agency partners nor do we discuss details pertaining to our business,” said Pfizer associate director of communications Louise Clark.

Lyrica generated revenues of $2.57 billion and $2.84 billion in 2008 and 2009, respectively, for Pfizer. The company’s recently reported earnings reveal that Lyrica earned $821 million in the 4Q of 2010, essentially flat on a like-for-like basis.

Last year, Pfizer handed its emerging markets anti-infectives portfolio to Edelman, one of the pharma giant’s key roster agencies. The company also recently restructured its communications team under EVP of policy, external affairs and communciations Sally Sussman.