Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) announced today that the Food and Drug Administration certified its top-selling cholesterol drug Lipitor as a means of preventing cardiovascular disease. While seemingly relatively mundane news, the new approval will likely become a valuable part of the company's marketing arsenal as it tries to fend off Lipitor's newest competitor.

Pfizer is successful not only for its impressive portfolio but also for its sales and marketing prowess. This skill was most recently on display in the company's positioning of its over-the-counter mouthwash Listerine. Recognizing people's distaste for flossing, Pfizer ran clinical trials to demonstrate that Listerine is as effective as flossing in reducing plaque and gingivitis between teeth. The firm pounced on the positive findings with a major ad campaign.

In its drug business, the world's largest pharmaceutical outfit is equally innovative. The company introduced a unique, if not long-lived, Medicaid health management program in Florida in an attempt to show that effective use of its pharmaceuticals can lower health bills. Pfizer Pfriends, the company's program for uninsured Americans, is an astute move that is sure to improve Pfizer's corporate image in an increasingly restive public.

Lipitor's success is likewise a product of Pfizer's sales and marketing techniques. Even after the drug became the leading cholesterol therapy in sales, the company continued to market it aggressively. Notably, though, Lipitor lagged its competitors in not being approved for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Merck's (NYSE:MRK) Zocor and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE:BMY) Pravachol have been sold with this labeling for the past 10 years, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Still, Pfizer managed to beat out Lipitor's rivals by touting the drug's greater efficacy. Now, though, that advantage could be neutralized by Merck's and Schering-Plough's (NYSE:SGP) new cholesterol treatment Vytorin, which combines Zocor and Zetia. Pfizer is not likely to take this threat lying down, and the new heart-disease prevention indication probably will be repeatedly invoked as the firm seeks to keep its Lipitor customers loyal.

Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer in Chicago. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.