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Published on 30/03/15 at 01:43pm

2014 turnover: $49.6 billion

Biggest drug (2014): Pain treatment Lyrica (pregabalin), which brought in $5.1 billion in sales

Pfizer is best known for its landmark drugs Lipitor (atorvastatin) for lowering cholesterol and Viagra (sildenafil citrate) for erectile dysfunction. 

It started out as a fine chemicals firm in 1840s New York, and rose to prominence producing citric acid for the emerging soft drinks market, as spear-headed by products such as Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper.

The 20th century saw the firm use innovative new fermentation methods to mass produce penicillin. Pfizer eventually became the world’s foremost producer of the antibiotic, with its contribution to the Allied effort in World War II leading to a military award. 

Post-war, the company continued to expand both territorially and into new research areas such as agriculture. High-profile acquisitions have driven growth, including multi-billion takeovers of Warner-Lambert (2000), Pharmacia (2003) and Wyeth (2009). 

In 2014 it attempted a buyout of AstraZeneca, which would have created the world’s largest pharmaceutical company and allowed Pfizer to pay less in taxes. However, the deal met with much opposition from the UK firm, as well as many politicians, the British public, unions and scientists, who feared cuts to jobs and research.

AstraZeneca rejected all of the US firm’s increasing offers, and Pfizer seems to have lost interest since new laws in the US curbed the benefits of such overseas ‘tax inversion’ deals. It wasn’t long before the company was back in the M&A arena though, as it went on to purchase Hospira for $17 billion in February 2015.

2014 saw solid growth for several products – including Lyrica, pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar, Eliquis (apixaban), and Xeljanz (tofacitinib citrate) in the US and Europe. These drugs also performed well in emerging markets, and China registered strong growth in Lipitor sales.

Like many pharma firms its fortunes have been dampened by losses of product exclusivity. This included the patent loss and generic competition for the painkiller Celebrex (celecoxib) in the US, the end of the co-promotion deal with Amgen for Enbrel (eternacept) in North America, and the termination of the Spiriva (tiotropium) collaboration in certain countries.

Pfizer also paid $400 million to settle a lawsuit which accused executives of misleading statements about the company’s financial performance that caused stock to trade at artificially inflated prices. Overall, revenues fell by 2% compared to 2013.

Meanwhile, it has seen a mixed start to 2015. In addition to the Hospira deal the firm will resume Phase III clinical trials of tanezumab following the FDA lifting a ban on trials of this class in pain medicines, and hopes to get an FDA approval for chronic plaque psoriasis drug tofacitinib.

However, blockbuster Lyrica has recently seen generic competition begin in the UK – despite Pfizer’s continued protests – and missed its target in a pain-reduction trial.

Pipeline for Pfizer

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