Analysts fret over Pfizer's litany of pipeline snafus

The clock is ticking on Pfizer's final, 18-month countdown on its $11.5 billion Lipitor franchise, but analysts are growing increasing fretful about the pharma giant's ability to find new drugs to fill the looming revenue chasm. On Wednesday Pfizer had to admit that it suspended a slate of osteoarthritis trials after its highly touted pain drug tanezumab--billed as the world's first likely biologic for pain--was linked to potentially perilous safety issues. And that came just two days after the company had to pull the cancer therapy Mylotarg from the market.

"We continue to have reservations about (the company's) R&D capabilities and this announcement only confirms those," Miller Tabak & Co. analyst Les Funtleyder noted in an AP story, which helpfully recaps the litany of pipeline snafus that have afflicted Pfizer over the past 18 months. Pfizer has had five late-stage cancer failures over the past year and a half, and just last week two of its licensed programs with biotech companies produced disappointing trial data on pain. And then, of course, there was Dimebon, an enticing potential blockbuster for Alzheimer's which worked no better than a placebo in Medivation's Phase III.

"While our latest announcements demonstrate the risks and difficulties inherent in working with complex diseases, our pipeline demonstrates our ongoing commitment to focus on high-priority disease areas where there is significant unmet medical need," Pfizer spokesman Ray Kerins tells the wire service.

Pfizer's commitment to unmet medical needs, a mantra of the pharma industry, did little to calm restless investors, who have had to deal with a cut in dividends. Pfizer's shares dipped three percent on Thursday, no small change for a company with a market value of $68 billion.

- here's the article from the AP