Pfizer Essay

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Pfizer, Inc., is a global pharmaceutical company based in New York City. It was ranked  the biggest pharmaceutical company  in terms  of sales in 2007 and has been a component of the Dow Jones Industrial  Average since  2004. As of February  2008, it had  an approximate  market  capitalization  of $155 billion. With  $7.5 billion invested  in research  and development  (R&D) every year, it is one of the top R&D companies  in the  world. Despite an enviable market  position,  Pfizer faces challenges  including a dwindling pipeline, an unprecedented number  of patent  expirations,  increasing  generic competition, and pricing pressure.

Pfizer was founded in 1849 by Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart in New York State. At the time, it was named Charles Pfizer & Co. The company’s first pharmaceutical  product  was an edible form of santonin, which was used to treat intestinal worms in the mid-19th  century.  By combining  blended  santonin  with almond  toffee, they created  a product  that consumers enjoyed. It was a commercial success that helped launch the company.

Through  most  of the  19th century,  the  company focused on producing chemicals, manufacturing such products as tartaric acid (which can be used as a laxative), cream of tartar (which can be used as a cleansing agent), and citric acid (useful in caffeinated soft drinks, such as colas). It also produced  many generic products, such as iodine, morphine,  and chloroform. In 1950 Pfizer started to sell the first product it developed  internally,  a broad-spectrum antibiotic  called Terramycin.  With  the launch of this product,  Pfizer demonstrated its growing focus on pharmaceuticals and  developed  a strong  presence  in  animal  health products, which continues today.

Acquisitions And Divestitures

Before 2000, Pfizer completed only two major acquisitions. The first acquisition of note was of a company called J. B. Roerig in 1953, which served to prop up Pfizer’s fledgling agricultural and nutritional division. Pfizer also acquired  full ownership  of Taito in 1983; that company contributed to Pfizer’s antibiotic manufacturing and distribution  activities.

After 2000, Pfizer embarked  on a series of mergers and acquisitions.  It merged  in 2000 with Warner-Lambert and acquired Pharmacia in 2003. These mergers  gave birth  to  the  world’s largest  pharmaceutical  company  and  gave Pfizer access to  many blockbuster  drugs. In the case of Warner-Lambert, Pfizer acquired the rights to Lipitor; the Pharmacia merger  gave Pfizer access  to  Celebrex.  Pfizer has since  acquired   many  smaller  companies,   including Meridica (2004), Esperion Therapeutics  (2004), Vicuron  (2005), PowerMed  (2006), Embrex (2007), and Encysive Pharmaceutical  (2008). It is estimated that Pfizer acquires more than a half-dozen companies every year to replenish its slowing pipeline.

Pfizer has also divested major divisions in the past few years. It sold its consumer  healthcare  department to Johnson & Johnson in 2006 and Dorom, its Italian generic pharmaceutical marketing  company, to  Teva  Pharmaceutical   in  2004. It  has  also  sold manufacturing plants around  the globe in an effort to reduce costs.


Pfizer and the companies it has acquired have developed many important drugs and innovations.  In the 1940s, for example, using a proprietary  fermentation process, Pfizer successfully mass-produced penicillin. Other notable innovations include Zoloft (an antidepressant), Lipitor (a cholesterol reducer), and Celebrex (a Cox-2 inhibitor  for pain relief ). The top pharmaceutical products  produced  by Pfizer include Lipitor, Zoloft, Celebrex, Diflucan (an antifungal drug), and Viagra (a drug used to treat male erectile dysfunction and arguably Pfizer’s most  popular  product).  Pfizer also provides  drug-delivery  products.  Exubera,  for example, is the first diabetes treatment for adults that can be inhaled rather than injected.

Like all big pharmaceutical companies,  Pfizer is subject to scrutiny by the press and stakeholders and currently faces several controversies. It is being sued by the government of Nigeria, for example, for allegedly running a clinical test of an experimental  meningitis  drug  without  proper  authorization.  It  was also accused  in the  1990s of overpricing  its AIDS treatment drug, Diflucan, in Thailand, which led to the Thai government’s removing its local patent.


  1. Arnold Engel, The Pfizer-Pharmacia Merger and  Multimarket Contact  in the Pharmaceutical Industry (Dartmouth College, Department of Economics, 2007);
  2. Pfizer, (cited March 2009);
  3. Jeffrey L. Rodengen, “The Legend of Pfizer” (Write Stuff Syndicate, 1999);
  4. Peter Rost, The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman (Soft Skull Press, 2006);
  5. Joe Stephens, “Pfizer Faces Criminal  Charges  in  Nigeria,” Washington Post (May 30, 2007).

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