As part of a sweeping reorganization of its research strategy, Pfizer plans to stop R & D in cardiac drugs.
The move must be a bitter pill to swallow. Pfizer is exiting a space it had dominated for years. Its cholesterol-lowering Lipitor for example, is the top selling drug in the world with 2007 sales of $12.7 billion, but its patent expires in 2011. The drug behemoth also did well with the blood pressure-lowering agent Norvasc , but generic forms became available in 2006.
Pfizer had hoped that torcetrapib, another cholesterol-reducing agent would extend the run, but the drug was shelved after a 2006 study revealed it caused cardiac complications and death.
The company also plans to abandon R & D in osteoporosis, obesity, liver disease and anemia. It plans to focus on more profitable areas, which for Pfizer means oncology, inflammation, diabetes, pain, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The reshuffling will not affect heart drugs that are well down the pipeline, including a clot prevention agent co-developed with Bristol-Meyers-Squibb. The 2 companies hope this medication will compete with Plavix, currently the world’s number two drug after Lipitor.
Pfizer’s annual R & D budget is $7.3 billion, which is enormous but nevertheless down 8% from last year. It has 114 human drug studies underway and 25 drugs in late stage development.