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Pfizer

Pfizer Inc. is a New York-based Big Pharma company. It’s known for its products like Advil, Viagra, Xanax and Zoloft. It was the second-largest pharmaceutical company by revenue in 2020. In December 2020, the Food and Drug Administration granted Pfizer an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine.

Pfizer Inc. is a pharmaceutical company that created many well-known drugs. Pfizer brands include Advil, Bextra, Celebrex, Diflucan, Lyrica, Robitussin and Viagra.

The Big Pharma company is also the mastermind behind many popular consumer products. Some of the company’s biggest names include Chapstick and Preparation-H.

Pfizer got its start more than 150 years ago. It’s come a long way, evolving from a “one-stop-shop” to a multinational corporation.

Pfizer has had many triumphs. It discovered citric acid. It mass produces penicillin and vitamin C.

Over the years, the company has also faced lawsuits where consumers claimed the drugmaker sold defective drugs, and the U.S. government has charged the company with health care fraud.

In December 2020, the company became the first to receive an emergency use authorization from the FDA for a COVID-19 vaccine.

What Is Pfizer?

Pfizer is a publicly-traded global pharmaceutical company headquartered in New York City. Its revenues reached $51.8 billion in 2019.

Pfizer makes Eliquis, Enbrel, EpiPen, Depo-Provera, Dimetapp, Neosporin, Xeljanz and Zithromax/Zmax. It specializes in vaccines and cancer, heart and diabetes treatments. It also makes medicines for disorders of the endocrine (hormones) and nervous systems.

The shareholder-owned company operates in 180 countries. Its research headquarters are in Groton, Connecticut. It employs more than 96,000 people worldwide.

Fact
Pfizer manufacturers more than 350 different pharmaceuticals.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Pfizer partnered with BioNTech in April 2020 to begin developing a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine candidate BNT162b2 is an mRNA vaccine.

In November 2020, the drugmaker announced that data from Phase 3 clinical trials had shown the vaccine was safe and effective with an efficacy of 95 percent. It requires two doses, 21 days apart.

“The study results mark an important step in this historic eight-month journey to bring forward a vaccine capable of helping to end this devastating pandemic. We continue to move at the speed of science to compile all the data collected thus far and share with regulators around the world,” Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and CEO, said in a press release. “With hundreds of thousands of people around the globe infected every day, we urgently need to get a safe and effective vaccine to the world.”

Fact
On Dec. 2, 2020, Pfizer and BioNTech received the world’s first temporary authorization in the U.K. for their coronavirus vaccine, BNT162b2.

A few days after the announcement of positive clinical trial results, Pfizer and BioNTech submitted a request for an emergency use authorization from the FDA. On Dec. 11, 2020, the FDA issued the authorization, which allows the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed in the U.S.

“The FDA’s decision to grant the [authorization] indicates that the vaccine meets safety and effectiveness requirements,” Dr. Rupali J. Limaye, a professor and scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told Drugwatch.

Pfizer intends to gather data in a U.S. COVID-19 Pilot Program from four states: Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico and Tennessee. It will use the data to refine its delivery and deployment of the vaccine, and the states will not receive vaccines early because of the program.

Pfizer and BioNTech said they would produce up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021. The two companies will use facilities in the U.S., Belgium and Germany to manufacture the vaccine and meet global need.

“Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing costs have been entirely self-funded, with billions of dollars already invested at risk. The company will continue bearing all the costs of development and manufacturing in an effort to help find a solution to this pandemic as fast as possible,” the company said in a Nov. 16, 2020 press release.

Company History

German-American cousins Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart began Pfizer in 1849. Brooklyn was Pfizer’s first home.

The company started as a manufacturer of fine chemicals. It operated out of one building. The stand-alone structure served as an office, laboratory, factory and warehouse.

As the company expanded, the headquarters moved to Manhattan in 1868. A separate warehouse opened in Chicago in 1882.

One of the company’s first successful products was Santonin, a cure for intestinal worms.

Did You Know?
Pfizer discovered citric acid. The organic acid is in Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper and Pepsi.

Pfizer became known as the world’s top producer of vitamin C. People have used the vitamin as a defense against scurvy and the common cold.

In 1952, Pfizer moved into eight new international locations. It also established its Agricultural Division, later known as Animal Health.

Pfizer acquired several other companies over the years. Many of these companies made billions for Pfizer with their established research and drug development.

Warner-Lambert was one of these companies. It’s the original maker of Lipitor. Warner-Lambert merged with Pfizer in 2000.

Lipitor quickly grew to be the largest-selling pharmaceutical of any kind in history. It reached $9.6 billion in revenue in 2011.

Key Pfizer Pharmaceutical Products

Pfizer is the manufacturer and/or marketer of many well-known products. The list below includes some of the company’s most recognizable brands. It is not an exhaustive list.

Popular Pfizer Products and Brands
Nexium24HR
Over-the-counter heartburn drug
Prevnar 13
Vaccine to prevent pneumonia
Advil
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (pain reliever)
Viagra
Erectile dysfunction drug
Xanax
Psychoactive medicine
Zoloft
SSRI antidepressant
Lipitor
Cholesterol medicine
Chantix
Smoking cessation drug
Bextra
Cox-2 inhibitor (pain reliever)
Depo-Testosterone
Testosterone replacement therapy drug
EpiPen
Auto-injector emergency allergy medicine
Celebrex
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (pain reliever)
Zithromax
Macrolide antibiotic (bacterial infections)
Eliquis
Anticoagulant (blood thinner)
Protonix
Proton pump inhibitor acid-reducer
Prempro
Hormone replacement drug therapy
Effexor
SNRI antidepressant
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Drug Recalls

Pfizer has had to recall some of its popular products due to quality issues and poor packaging. Effexor XR and Prempro are two products affected by recalls. More recently, the company recalled two lots each of Relpax in 2019 and Duavive in 2020.

Effexor XR

In 2014, Pfizer recalled two lots of its antidepressant drug Effexor XR. Tikosyn was discovered in an Effexor XR bottle. Tikosyn is one of the company’s heart pills. Pfizer warned that the combination of the two different drugs could be deadly.

Prempro

In 2013, Pfizer announced it was recalling five lots of Prempro. Prempro is a hormone replacement therapy drug. Routine testing revealed the strength of the drug was low.

Lawsuits and Settlements

Over the years, Pfizer has faced lawsuits involving some of its most popular drugs. Courts have dismissed thousands of lawsuits against Pfizer. The company has also agreed to settle cases involving claims of illegal marketing and health care fraud.

Pfizer Settlement and Fine
Pfizer set a record for the largest health care fraud settlement and the largest criminal fine of any kind with $2.3 billion in 2009.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice

Protonix

People are suing Pfizer over Protonix. Protonix lawsuits say Pfizer failed to warn about the risk of kidney problems. In 2013, Pfizer agreed to pay $55 million to settle criminal charges. The U.S. Department of Justice said Wyeth promoted Protonix for unapproved uses in 2000 and 2001. Pfizer acquired Wyeth in 2009.

Learn More About Protonix Lawsuits

Prempro

Nearly 10,000 women filed Prempro breast cancer lawsuits against Pfizer. By 2012, Pfizer settled most of the claims for more than $1 billion.

Chantix

About 3,000 people filed Chantix lawsuits against Pfizer. They claimed Chantix caused suicidal thoughts and severe psychological disorders. In 2013, the company set aside about $288 million to resolve these cases. One case settled for an undisclosed amount just before trial in 2012.

Depo-Testosterone

More than 7,800 testosterone therapy lawsuits had been filed against manufacturers as of November 2020. Pfizer had reached an agreement with the consumers suing the company in February 2018, ending its role in the massive litigation. The lawsuits say testosterone products caused strokes, blood clots and heart attacks.

Learn More About Testosterone Lawsuits

Effexor

A federal panel closed the consolidated Effexor litigation in 2013. Lawsuits claimed birth defects.

Zoloft

A judge dismissed Zoloft cases in 2016. Lawsuits included similar claims to Effexor XR. The judge did not disagree that Zoloft caused birth defects. But the judge concluded there was insufficient evidence to definitively link the two.

Eliquis

A judge dismissed a group of federal Eliquis cases in 2017. Injured patients continue to file severe bleeding claims in Delaware state court.

Lipitor

A judge dismissed Lipitor lawsuits in 2017. Women who took the drug filed lawsuits after developing Type 2 diabetes. There is currently an appeal pending.

Trovan

In 1996, Pfizer conducted an unapproved clinical trial. It involved children with meningitis in Nigeria, CBS News reported. The trials led to the deaths of 11 children. Dozens more were left disabled.

Pfizer’s Unapproved Clinical Trial
The unauthorized trial involved tests on 200 children with Pfizer's antibiotic Trovan.

Trovan is a drug severely restricted in use because of its potential to cause liver damage. Injury to the liver as a result of taking Trovan can lead to liver failure and death.

In 2011, Pfizer paid $700,000 to four families who lost children during the Trovan trials.

In addition, the company set up a $35 million fund for those affected by Trovan. Pfizer also agreed to sponsor health projects in Kano, Nigeria.

Pfizer Logo
Pfizer Facts
  1. Established 1849
  2. Founders Charles Pfizer and Charles F. Erhart
  3. Headquarters New York City
  4. Size More than 90,000 employees
  5. 2019 Revenue $51.8 billion
  6. Subsidiaries Agouron Pharmaceuticals, G.D. Searle, GenTrac, Greenstone, Hospira, InnoPharma, Meridian Medical Technologies, Monarch Pharmaceuticals, Nordic Sales Group, Parke-Davis, Peak Enterprises, Roerig, Warner-Lambert, Wyeth, etc.

Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.

Michelle Llamas, Senior Content Writer
Written By Michelle Llamas Senior Writer

Michelle Llamas has been writing articles and producing podcasts about drugs, medical devices and the FDA for nearly a decade. She focuses on various medical conditions, health policy, COVID-19, LGBTQ health, mental health and women’s health issues. Michelle collaborates with experts, including board-certified doctors, patients and advocates, to provide trusted health information to the public. Some of her qualifications include:

  • Member of American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and former Engage Committee and Membership Committee member
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Literacy certificates
  • Original works published or cited in The Lancet, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and the Journal for Palliative Medicine
Edited By
Emily Miller
Emily Miller Managing Editor

47 Cited Research Articles

Drugwatch.com writers follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, court records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and interviews with qualified experts. Review our editorial policy to learn more about our process for producing accurate, current and balanced content.

  1. Armstrong, D. (2012, December 18). Pfizer Said to Fire 20% of U.S. Primary-Care Sales Force. Bloomberg. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-18/pfizer-to-fire-about-20-percent-of-u-s-primary-care-sales-force.html
  2. BBC News. (2011, August 1). Pfizer: Nigeria drug trial victims get compensation. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14493277
  3. CBS News. (2017, February 23). Heartburn meds associated with increased risk of kidney damage, study finds. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/heartburn-acid-reflux-drugs-ppi-associated-with-increased-risk-kidney-damage/
  4. Edwards, J. (2011, February 9). Pfizer Bribed Nigerian Officials in Fatal Drug Trial, Ex-Employee Claims. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/pfizer-bribed-nigerian-officials-in-fatal-drug-trial-ex-employee-claims/
  5. FiercePharma. (2011, February 10). Pfizer to Pay $330M in Prempro settlement. Retrieved from https://www.fiercepharma.com/pharma/pfizer-to-pay-330m-prempro-settlement
  6. Harris, G. (2009, September 2). Pfizer pays $2.3 Billion to Settle Marketing Case. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/03/business/03health.html?_r=0
  7. Helfand, C. (2017, March 14). Pfizer. Retrieved from https://www.fiercepharma.com/special-report/2-pfizer
  8. Oliver v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Company et al. (2018, January 3). Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial. Superior Court of the State of Delaware. Retrieved from https://jc6kx1c9izw3wansr3nmip8k-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018-01-03-Oliver-Complaint.pdf
  9. Overley, J. (2017, May 31). AbbVie Tops Pharma Reputation Report, Pfizer Ranks Last. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/929882/abbvie-tops-pharma-reputation-report-pfizer-ranks-last
  10. Pfizer. (2012, March 12). Appendix A 2011 Financial Report. Retrieved from https://s21.q4cdn.com/317678438/files/doc_financials/Annual/2011/financial2011.pdf
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  12. Pfizer. (2020, December 2). All COVID-19 Updates. Retrieved from https://www.pfizer.com/health/coronavirus/updates
  13. Pfizer. (2020, January 28). Pfizer Reports Fourth-Quarter And Full-Year 2019 Results. Retrieved from https://investors.pfizer.com/investor-news/press-release-details/2020/PFIZER-REPORTS-FOURTH-QUARTER-AND-FULL-YEAR-2019-RESULTS/default.aspx
  14. Pfizer. (2020, November 16). Pfizer Update On Our U.S. Covid-19 Vaccine Candidate Distribution Preparedness. Retrieved from https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-update-our-us-covid-19-vaccine-candidate
  15. Pfizer. (2020, November 18). Pfizer And BioNtech Conclude Phase 3 Study Of Covid-19 Vaccine Candidate, Meeting All Primary Efficacy Endpoints. Retrieved from https://www.pfizer.com/news/press-release/press-release-detail/pfizer-and-biontech-conclude-phase-3-study-covid-19-vaccine
  16. Pfizer. (n.d.) Pfizer 2017 Annual Review. Retrieved from https://www.pfizer.com/files/investors/financial_reports/annual_reports/2017/our-business-our-purpose/performance/index.html
  17. Pierson, R. (2008, October 17). Pfizer to settle Bextra, Celebrex lawsuits. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pfizer-bextra/pfizer-to-settle-bextra-celebrex-lawsuits-idUSTRE49G43220081017
  18. Reuters. (n.d.). Pfizer Inc (PFE.N). Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/companies/PFE.N
  19. Staton, T. (2013, March 4). Pfizer settles 2,000-plus Chantix suits, tales $273M charge. Retrieved from https://www.fiercepharma.com/sales-and-marketing/pfizer-settles-2-000-plus-chantix-suits-takes-273m-charge
  20. Stein, R. (2016, January 11). Popular Acid Reflux Drugs Are Linked to Kidney Disease Risk. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/01/11/462423759/popular-acid-reflux-drugs-are-linked-to-kidney-disease-risk
  21. Stevens, S. (2012, December 21). Pfizer to pay $1M to Oregon for violating earlier settlement. Portland Business Journal. Retrieved from https://www.bizjournals.com/portland/morning_call/2012/12/pfizer-to-pay-1m-to-oregon-for-mislea.html
  22. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2020, December 11). Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine
  23. U.S. Department of Justice. (2009, September 2). Justice Department Announces Largest Health Care Fraud Settlement in Its History. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-announces-largest-health-care-fraud-settlement-its-history
  24. U.S. Department of Justice. (2016, April 27). Wyeth and Pfizer Agree to Pay to Pay $784.6 Million to Resolve Lawsuits Alleging That Wyeth Underpaid Drug Rebates to Medicaid. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/wyeth-and-pfizer-agree-pay-7846-million-resolve-lawsuit-alleging-wyeth-underpaid-drug-rebates
  25. U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois. (n.d.). MDL 2545; In re Testosterone Replacement Therapy Products Liability Litigation. Retrieved from https://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/mdl-details.aspx?UGlDS1bLxpRHyfdf3l5DJQ==
  26. U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. (2014, October 9). Transfer Order. In Re: Testosterone Replacement Therapy Products Liability Litigation. Retrieved from http://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/MDL-2545-Tag-Along_Transfer-10-14.pdf
  27. U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. (2018, May 15). MDL Statistics Report: Distribution of Pending MDL Dockets by District. Retrieved from http://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/Pending_MDL_Dockets_By_District-May-15-2018.pdf
  28. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017, November 6). DEPO-TESTOSTERONE- testosterone cypionate injection, solution. DailyMed. Retrieved from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=cfbb53d4-b868-4a28-8436-f9112eb01c39&
  29. U.S. Department of Justice. (2009, September 2). Justice Department Announces Largest Health Care Fraud Settlement in Its History. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-announces-largest-health-care-fraud-settlement-its-history
  30. Helfand, C. (2017, March 14). Pfizer. Retrieved from https://www.fiercepharma.com/special-report/2-pfizer
  31. Staton, T. (2013, March 4). Pfizer settles 2,000-plus Chantix suits, tales $273M charge. Retrieved from https://www.fiercepharma.com/sales-and-marketing/pfizer-settles-2-000-plus-chantix-suits-takes-273m-charge
  32. Pfizer. (2017). Company Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.pfizer.com/about/leadership-and-structure/company-fact-sheet
  33. U.S. Department of Justice. (2016, April 27). Wyeth and Pfizer Agree to Pay to Pay $784.6 Million to Resolve Lawsuits Alleging That Wyeth Underpaid Drug Rebates to Medicaid. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/wyeth-and-pfizer-agree-pay-7846-million-resolve-lawsuit-alleging-wyeth-underpaid-drug-rebates
  34. Stein, R. (2016, January 11). Popular Acid Reflux Drugs Are Linked to Kidney Disease Risk. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/01/11/462423759/popular-acid-reflux-drugs-are-linked-to-kidney-disease-risk
  35. CBS News. (2017, February 23). Heartburn meds associated with increased risk of kidney damage, study finds. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/heartburn-acid-reflux-drugs-ppi-associated-with-increased-risk-kidney-damage/
  36. FiercePharma. (2011, February 10). Pfizer to Pay $330M in Prempro settlement. Retrieved from https://www.fiercepharma.com/pharma/pfizer-to-pay-330m-prempro-settlement
  37. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2017, November 6). DEPO-TESTOSTERONE- testosterone cypionate injection, solution. DailyMed. Retrieved from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=cfbb53d4-b868-4a28-8436-f9112eb01c39&
  38. U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois. (n.d.). MDL 2545; In re Testosterone Replacement Therapy Products Liability Litigation. Retrieved from https://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/mdl-details.aspx?UGlDS1bLxpRHyfdf3l5DJQ==
  39. Stevens, S. (2012, December 21). Pfizer to pay $1M to Oregon for violating earlier settlement. Portland Business Journal. Retrieved from https://www.bizjournals.com/portland/morning_call/2012/12/pfizer-to-pay-1m-to-oregon-for-mislea.html
  40. Pfizer. (2012, March 12). Appendix A 2011 Financial Report. Retrieved from https://s21.q4cdn.com/317678438/files/doc_financials/Annual/2011/financial2011.pdf
  41. Reuters. (n.d.). Pfizer Inc (PFE.N). Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/companies/PFE.N
  42. Armstrong, D. (2012, December 18). Pfizer Said to Fire 20% of U.S. Primary-Care Sales Force. Bloomberg. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-18/pfizer-to-fire-about-20-percent-of-u-s-primary-care-sales-force.html
  43. Harris, G. (2009, September 2). Pfizer pays $2.3 Billion to Settle Marketing Case. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/03/business/03health.html?_r=0
  44. Pierson, R. (2008, October 17). Pfizer to settle Bextra, Celebrex lawsuits. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pfizer-bextra/pfizer-to-settle-bextra-celebrex-lawsuits-idUSTRE49G43220081017
  45. U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. (2018, May 15). MDL Statistics Report: Distribution of Pending MDL Dockets by District. Retrieved from http://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/Pending_MDL_Dockets_By_District-May-15-2018.pdf
  46. U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. (2014, October 9). Transfer Order. In Re: Testosterone Replacement Therapy Products Liability Litigation. Retrieved from http://www.jpml.uscourts.gov/sites/jpml/files/MDL-2545-Tag-Along_Transfer-10-14.pdf
  47. Oliver v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Company et al. (2018, January 3). Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial. Superior Court of the State of Delaware. Retrieved from https://jc6kx1c9izw3wansr3nmip8k-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018-01-03-Oliver-Complaint.pdf
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