Pfizer is a pharmaceutical giant headquartered in New York City with operations in 180 countries around the world. Pfizer produces products in a wide range of therapeutic areas including internal medicine, oncology, rare diseases, immunology, and vaccines with a focus in developing science of biosimilars and gene therapies.

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Pfizer Overview

Pfizer is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical corporation. It was started in 1849 by cousins Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart. Pfizer was first established in Brooklyn, New York. Pfizer is a worldwide corporation that operates in over 180 countries with over one-hundred thousand employees. Pfizer achieved a top revenue in 2011 at $67 billion and has most recently reported revenue of $52 billion, making it the biggest pharma company in the world.

Pfizer’s main areas specialty are Internal Medicine, Rare Disease, Inflammation and Immunology, Vaccines and Oncology. With 90 candidates in the pipeline, the research and development projects Pfizer is focusing on include newer therapies based on biologics, gene therapies and individualized medicine.

Pfizer also has legal issues as a result of several of their medications. In the past years, Pfizer had to pay court settlements from lawsuits filed against them by patients and accusations of illegal marketing. The most expensive settlement that Pfizer has paid was over $2.3 billion paid as a fine to resolve civil and criminal penalties of illegal marketing for four medications including Bextra, Geodon, Zyvox, and Lyrica.

The company has also faced thousands of lawsuits for medical injuries caused by their medications including drugs such as Bextra, Celebrex, Chantix, Effexor, Zoloft, Prempro, Depo-testosterone, and Lipitor. Many of these lawsuits have been resolved or settled, however some remain in court systems.

History of Pfizer

Pfizer was founded in 1849 by Charles Pfizer and his cousin, Charles Erhart. The company was formed as Charles Pfizer and Company in Brooklyn, New York.

The Civil War (1861-1865) was a time of growth for Pfizer. There was a substantial demand for many types of medical supplies and Pfizer supplied preservatives, disinfectants, iodine, chloroform, and painkillers like morphine to the war front.

After the Civil War, the company moved headquarters to Manhattan with warehouse facilities opened in Chicago. By the turn of the century, Pfizer was a successfully established business, incorporated in New Jersey with privately held stock valued at $2 million.

Pfizer developed a technique for mass producing citric acid in 1919 which eliminated reliance on European supplies. Citric acid was in high demand because of soft drinks that were growing in popularity but research revolving around citric acid production would also later lead to the development of penicillin. In 1936, similar research led to a method of producing ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C and became the world’s leading producer of Vitamin C. In 1944, Pfizer began the production of penicillin, becoming the worlds largest producer and followed with tetracycline development in 1950.

In 1952, the company expanded into animal health with a dedicated research farm in Terre Haute, Indiana and acquired J.B. Roerig nutritional company. By 1958, Pfizer was producing medications in Mexico, Italy and Turkey, conducting research in Connecticut and continued pursuit of further development of novel drugs.

Pfizer was named the “World’s Most Admired Pharmaceutical Company” in 1997 by Forbes Magazine and celebrated 150 years in 1999 with the “Company of the Year” award. In 2000, Pfizer merged with Warner Lambert to form the world’s fastest growing pharma company and again in 2003, merged with Pharmacia, another fast-growing company. In 2009, Pfizer acquired Wyeth, expanding their product line and has since acquired all or parts of or implemented collaboration with Baxter, Hospira, Watson, and Corning.

Pfizer Products

The billion-dollar sales threshold was passed in 1972 and Pfizer has produced a number of medications that would become blockbusters.

Best selling pharmaceuticals have included:

  • Vibramycin (doxycycline)
  • Minipress (prazosin)
  • Feldene (piroxicam)
  • Glucotrol (glipizide)
  • Unasyn (ampicillin sulbactam)
  • Procardia XL (nifedipine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Zithromax (azithromycin)
  • Norvasc (amlodipine)
  • Viagra (sildenafil)
  • Lyrica (pregabalin)
  • Sutent (sunitib)
  • Protonix (pantoprazole)

Currently, Pfizer manufactures hundreds of products in both branded and generic versions and has 90 product candidates in development in various stages of research trials.

Pfizer Lawsuits

Pfizer has faced thousands of lawsuits filed for medical injuries caused by some of its most popular drugs. It has also set a record for the largest fine paid for a health care fraud lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Pfizer paid $2.3 billion in fines, penalties, and settlement for illegal marketing claims.

Some of the Pfizer lawsuits have been dismissed, others have been settled, and still others remain in court systems. Some of the most notable lawsuits have included:


As part of a larger group of proton pump inhibitor lawsuits, Pfizer faced a number of Protonix lawsuits after it acquired drug company Wyeth who had been accused of marketing the drug for unapproved uses. In 2013, Pfizer agreed to pay $55 million to settle illegal marketing claims but the company may still be facing lawsuits for kidney injuries caused by the medication.


Nearly 10,000 Prempro lawsuits were filed by women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The lawsuits were largely settled by 2012 for about $1 billion.


Pfizer faced about 3,000 Chantix lawsuits filed by people who claimed they experienced suicidal thoughts and psychiatric disorders after using Chantix for smoking cessation. Pfizer set aside about $288 million and at least some of the cases were settled.


Thousands of cases of medical injury due to testosterone replacement therapy have been filed. Other drug companies have paid $ billions to settle their cases, however some Pfizer testosterone lawsuits were dismissed.


About 250 Zoloft lawsuits were filed, claiming Pfizer actively promoted the use of Zoloft to pregnant women despite knowledge of birth defect risks from their research. These cases were largely dismissed in 2016 when a judge concluded that there was not enough evidence to prove a link between birth defects and Zoloft use.


Effexor was a medication originally produced by Wyeth which has also been the cause of multiple lawsuits. People who filed Effexor lawsuits claimed that it caused birth defects, and separately, suicidal thoughts and behaviors. In September 2015, Effexor lawsuits were dismissed but may have been eligible to refile.

Notwithstanding claims relating to this product, the drug/medical device remains approved by the U.S. FDA.