Pfizer's future rests with biotech

At this week’s Bear Stearns Healthcare Conference, Pfizer discussed its plans for the future with analysts. As we all know, Pfizer is facing a major loss of sales when its best-selling drug Lipitor goes off patent in 2010. This wasn’t a major cause for concern until January, when Pfizer abandoned development of Torcetrapib due to concerns about mortality and cardiovascular events. Torcetrapib was slated to replace Lipitor, and the stunning loss of the progam left a gaping hole in Pfizer’s pipeline. In addition to concerns about Lipitor, both Viagra and Geodon, a schizophrenia therapy, will be faced with generic competitors by 2014. All told, Pfizer has to find a way to replace an annual $19 billion in sales when these drugs go off patent.

So how is Pfizer planning to deal with this loss? Company officials told analysts that Pfizer would increase its focus on biologics, which are much more difficult to make generic copies of. Lawmakers and healthcare professionals both here and abroad have embraced generic pharmaceuticals, which are relatively easy for generic drugmakers to produce. But Congress and the FDA have been slow to greenlight a faster approval process for generic biologics (on the other hand, the EMEA has had a regulatory pathway in place for almost three years). Pfizer has already announced a plan to invest $10 million a year for the next five years to help start-up biotechs in San Diego. Expect to see Pfizer snapping up biologics from smaller drug developers and investing more money in biotech companies in the months and years to come.

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