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. Pfizer’s main areas specialty are Primary Care, Specialty Care and Oncology, Established Products and Emerging Markets, Animal Health, and Consumer Health Care and Nutrition.

Pfizer also has legal issues as a result of many of their medications. In the past ten 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 billion. There is a large and growing number of patient lawsuits against Pfizer from drugs such as Bextra, Celebrex, Chantix, Effexor, and Zoloft.

History of Pfizer

The Civil War (1861-1865) was a particular growing phase for Pfizer. There was a substantial demand for many types of medical supplies during this time. Pfizer supplied preservatives, disinfectants, iodine, chloroform and painkillers like morphine. The Civil War was an early time in Pfizer’s development.

After the Civil War, the company expanded to Manhattan and Chicago. By the turn of the century, Pfizer was a successfully established business. Pfizer had since then developed a technique for mass producing citric acid. This was very profitable because of soft drinks that were growing in popularity at the time. The research revolving around citric acid production would later lead to the development of penicillin.

Pfizer continued their pursuit of further developing their research and also began acquiring other companies. Over the decades, Pfizer has been producing medications that would net billions of dollars. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Pfizer produced some of the most successful pharmaceutical drugs to date. For example, Lipitor (a statin drug), was earning $9.6 billion during 2011.

Drug Side Effect Lawsuits

Pfizer has had a problem with many of their prescription medications used to treat health conditions. Their antidepressant drugs, Effexor and Zoloft, are among the top reasons for lawsuits involving birth defects. It is because of these birth defects that pregnant women are now advised to avoid the use of these antidepressant medications. Research has shown that selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) cause an increased likelihood in the development of birth defects.


The most notable of the Pfizer lawsuits are from the SSRI antidepressant, Zoloft. There were over 250 Zoloft birth defect lawsuits pending in 2012 and more lawsuits are expected. The most serious of the allegations are that Pfizer actively promoted the use of Zoloft to pregnant women despite knowledge of birth defect risks from their research.

Since there were so many lawsuit cases filed because of Zoloft, the cases were consolidated into multi-district litigation (MDL) meaning that several cases are to be handled by a single judge to be more efficient. The dispute is ongoing and status conferences are scheduled to continue throughout 2013.


Effexor is another medication from Pfizer that was linked to serious side effects. Some of Effexor’s side effects are also life-altering, like birth defects. Effexor was designated as a category C medication meaning that it is not suitable for women during pregnancy. Effexor is particularly known for causing Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN). This is a common side effect for all SNRIs, like Effexor. PPHN causes damage to the heart and lungs of the newborn and causes extensive effects on the quality of life after birth.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are also issues with Effexor. In 2004 and 2006, the FDA issued a warning for doctors and patients about Effexor being a risk to patients up to age 24. This advisory is why Effexor is not prescribed to children and rarely prescribed to teenagers. The FDA has also made it mandatory to display a “black box warning” on the medication to warn about these risks.

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