With Generic and Over-the-Counter Viagra Coming, Pfizer Looks for a Viable Replacement

Published: Apr 02, 2018 By

Pfizer Lab Coat

Pfizer’s erectile dysfunction pill Viagra came on the market 20 years ago. As prescription sales falter and generics hit the market—as well as competitors such as Eli Lilly’s Cialis—the company is looking for replacements. At the same time, it has begun marketing its own over-the-counter version of Viagra, called Viagra Connect, in the UK.

In 2017, global sales of Viagra were about $1.2 billion, down from about $2.1 billion five years earlier. Pfizer has plenty of strong-selling drugs, notably Lipitor for high cholesterol, Zoloft for depression and Celebrex for inflammation. It projects it will spend $7.4 to $7.9 billion this year on research and development, compared to $7.7 billion last year. This is a bit below the $10 billion-plus number that its rivals, Merck and Johnson & Johnson, spend, however.

Revenue was down slightly last year overall to $52.5 billion. But the company expects sales to increase this year, although according to the company, only by five percent at the most. It’s facing generic and biosimilar competition, notably for Enbrel and Viagra.

Pfizer has been making a number of structural changes recently. In January, it trashed its research programs into Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, chopping 300 jobs and indicating it planned to invest the money into other areas. It is also attempting to sell its consumer healthcare business, which includes brand names like Advil, Centrum and ChapStick. It looked like GlaxoSmithKline was going to buy it, but about a week ago, GSK walked away from the deal, as did Reckitt Benckiser Group. In 2016, the business unit created $3.4 billion in revenue for Pfizer.

Over the last several years, Pfizer attempted so-called mega-mergers, trying to merge with AstraZeneca, which was scuttled in 2014 because of opposition by the U.S. and UK governments. An attempt to merge with Allergan in 2016 fell apart after the U.S. Treasury Department released a new set of rules that made it more difficult for U.S. companies to conduct tax inversions.

Pfizer has since made a number of acquisitions, but nothing on the scale of AstraZeneca or Allergan. One of the most notable when Pfizer acquiring Medivation for $14 billion in 2016. The big incentive there was the acquisition of Medivation’s Xtandi for prostate cancer. The drug sold more than $1 billion in 2015, and had a promising, though small, pipeline. And it bought Anacor Pharmaceuticals in 2016, as well, for a deal totaling about $5.2 billion.  It picked up Eucrisa for eczema in that deal.

Pfizer often opts for sharing risks through strategic partnerships, such as with Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb, also with biotech companies and academic researchers. In addition, it invests in early research via its Pfizer Venture Investments.

A Pfizer spokesperson told FirstPost, “our current pipeline is poised with an opportunity to deliver up to an additional 15 potential blockbusters over the next five years.”

One of those is undoubtedly Pfizer’s tafamidis for patients with transthyretin cardiomyopathy. Last week the company announced that the drug met its primary endpoint in a Phase III clinical trial, showing a statistically significant reduction in the combination of all-cause mortality and frequency of cardiovascular-related hospitalizations compared to placebo. Although probably not a blockbuster, with peak sales of $0.5 billion projected, it would strengthen the company’s presence in the rare disease market.

And a Clarivate Analytics report projects Pfizer’s Steglatro, for type 2 diabetes, which it developed with Merck, will bring in $1.087 billion in sales by 2022.

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