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Blockbuster combination unveiled as Pfizer marches on

Published on 29/10/03 at 04:24pm

Pfizer is to launch a new double-blockbuster cardiovascular product to help further its position as the Goliath of the pharmaceutical industry.

Speaking to analysts for the first time since its $60 billion acquisition of Pharmacia in April, the company was once again upbeat about its future, raising forecasts of savings from the integration by an extra $1.5 billion to $4 billion by 2005, and boosting earnings predictions for next year by 23%.

The company unveiled a number of new product and pipeline developments, most notably plans to combine its blockbusters the cholesterol drug Lipitor and blood pressure treatment Norvasc (Istin) into one patient-friendly pill.

Karen Katen, Executive VP and President of the Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals group, said the company would build on new data demonstrating Lipitor safety and efficacy.

"These data are also the foundation for the launch of a new product known as Caduet, the first-in-class dual therapy combining Lipitor and Norvasc for patients with both dyslipidaemia and hypertension," she said.

"In the United States, 27 million people have these two conditions but only 10% are treated for both. Our new combination has the potential to dramatically expand the cardiovascular market."

Combining the pill will help Pfizer compensate for Norvasc's impending patent expiry in global markets, including the lucrative US.

The strategy mirrors Merck plans to launch a pill combining its rival statin Zocor already post-patent in some markets with Schering-Plough novel cholesterol absorption product Zetia (Ezetrol in Europe).

Meanwhile, another combination of Lipitor with a new agent, torcetrapib, which works by inhibiting the action of cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP), has shown promise in phase II studies.

The company said it also expected further growth from unifying the Pharmacia and Pfizer teams that co-marketed the COX-II arthritis and pain drugs Celebrex and Bextra.

Despite continued growth in 2002 for the products, safety and efficacy concerns in the US and Europe have held back their performance, but Pfizer says it will prove the drugsworth with studies in patient populations beyond those who suffer from gastrointestinal side-effects with traditional NSAIDs.

One of the company most promising late-stage drugs is its inhaled insulin treatment for diabetics, Exubera, which it is co-developing with Aventis and is now nearing regulatory submission.

Another is varenicline, a smoking cessation product in phase III development that the company claims is a significant advance over the only other prescription-only drug for the condition, GlaxoSmithKline Zyban.

In contrast to GSK after its merger in January 2001, Pfizer does not plan a major re-organisation of its R&D structures and processes, and now predicts it will file 20 new drug applications before 2007.

Peter Corr, Senior VP, Science and Technology, said: "In a very short time, we have completed a top-to-bottom re-evaluation of all Discovery and Development projects and selected the very best scientific, medical and commercial opportunities."

Currently, only one in 25 early candidates become prescribed medicines, but Pfizer says it is aiming to reduce this to just one in 10.

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