Pfizer slashes staff and research as patent expires
THE blockbuster drug model is “broken”, according to a Lancet editorial, as Pfizer slashes staff and research budgets with the expiry last week of atorvastatin’s (Lipitor) patent.
Pfizer has planned for the loss of Lipitor sales this year by announcing the closure of its Sandwich, UK, research site, letting go most of its 2400 research staff and cutting its anticipated 2012 research and development spend by $1.5 billion, The Lancet said.
The editorial said no drug company today has the capacity for the aggressive marketing of a few blockbuster drugs as well as substantial research and development.
“The blockbuster business model is broken, and it has been for some time,” it said.
The editorial called for a new business model of greater collaboration with universities and academic medical science.
“The difficulties industry now faces are an opportunity to put leadership of big pharmaceutical companies back into the hands of scientists who understand that business success comes not from aggressive marketing and sometimes unethical sales and marketing, but from judicious exchange between scientists in different sectors,” it said.
According to the editorial, Lipitor has earned Pfizer an estimated US$130 billion ($126.7 billion) since it was patented in 1997.
In Australia, atorvastatin tops PBS spending, costing taxpayers nearly $600 million in the past 12 months, according to the government’s Expenditure and Prescriptions Twelve Months to 30 June 2011.
Lancet 2011; 378: 1976