Pfizer 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 over 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. But for all its successes, it has also seen its fair share of lawsuits and scandal.
Consumers have accused Pfizer of selling defective products. The U.S. government has charged the company with health care fraud.
Fortune magazine named Pfizer the world’s most admired pharmaceutical company in 1997. But in 2017, a Reputation Institute report ranked Pfizer last among the top 17 drug makers for reputation.
What Is Pfizer?
Pfizer is a publicly-traded global pharmaceutical company headquartered in New York City. Its revenues reached $52.5 billion in 2017.
Pfizer makes Advil, Xanax, Depo-Provera, Neosporin, Lyrica and Dimetapp. 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.
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.
Pfizer was also known as the world’s top producer of vitamin C. People use the vitamin as a defense against scurvy and the common cold.
In 1952, Pfizer had 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.
Pfizer manufacturers and/or markets many well-known products. Studies link some of its products to serious side effects. The products prompted FDA warnings and lawsuits.
- Over-the-counter heartburn drug
- Prevnar 13
- Vaccine to prevent pneumonia
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (pain reliever)
- Erectile dysfunction drug
- Psychoactive medicine
- SSRI antidepressant
- Cholesterol medicine
- Smoking cessation drug
- Cox-2 inhibitor (pain reliever)
- Testosterone replacement therapy drug
- Auto-injector emergency allergy medicine
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (pain reliever)
- Macrolide antibiotic (bacterial infections)
- Anticoagulant (blood thinner)
- Proton pump inhibitor acid-reducer
- Hormone replacement drug therapy
- SNRI antidepressant
Pfizer Lawsuits and Settlements
Pfizer faces a growing number of lawsuits in 2018 involving some of its most popular drugs. In the past, courts dismissed thousands of lawsuits against Pfizer. The company also agreed to settle cases over illegal marketing and health care fraud.
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.
Nearly 10,000 women filed Prempro breast cancer lawsuits against Pfizer. By 2012, Pfizer settled most of the claims for more than $1 billion.
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.
More than 6,000 testosterone therapy lawsuits were pending in May 2018. The lawsuits say testosterone products caused strokes, blood clots and heart attacks.
A federal panel closed the consolidated Effexor litigation in 2013. Lawsuits claimed birth defects.
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.
A judge dismissed a group of federal Eliquis cases in 2017. Injured patients continue to file severe bleeding claims in Delaware state court.
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.
Pfizer 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Please seek the advice of a medical professional before making health care decisions.
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