It hasn't had a lot to show for it so far, but Pfizer became the world's number one spender on research and development last year, grabbing the top spot from Ford. The list, assembled by the European Commission, looks at the top 50 research budgets on the planet. Biopharma companies ramped up spending big time last year, according to the EU, overtaking technology hardware and equipment makers. Much of that money was poured into programs designed to introduce a new generation of blockbusters as the current top products face a looming loss of patent protection. Merck, for example, increased R&D spending by 24 percent. Pfizer has been regularly held up to criticism that it has been notoriously ineffective in beefing up its pipeline--with the torcetrapib fiascoÂ used as a prime example of its shortcomings. That helped lead the company to announce a major new initiative last week to launch a biotech centerÂ in South San Francisco that will be responsible for advancing critical new products--an announcement that left analysts buzzing for days.
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