Pfizer brags of pipeline, refocuses R&D

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Pfizer announced that the number of compounds it has in Phase 3 development has grown from 16 to 25 over the past six months, including eight cancer treatments.

That puts Pfizer well ahead of its own projections made in March, which called for 24-28 Phase 3 candidates by December 2009. However, all but seven of those are for new indications on drugs already marketed, including Lyrica, Celebrex, Sutent, Geodon, Vfend and Zithromax. One drug is currently under review – Fablyn (lasofoxifene, formerly known as Oporia), a SERM for osteoporosis.

New molecular entities in Phase 3 include: Thelin for pulmonary hypertension; apixaban, a co-promote with BMS for atrial fibrilation; dalbavancin, an anti-infective; PD-332334 for generalized anxiety disorder; CP-751871, a biologic for non-small cell lung cancer; axitinib for renal cell carcinoma; and esreboxetine for fibromyalgia.

Pfizer has 114 drugs in development altogether, with 50 in Phase 1 and 38 in Phase 2. The company discontinued work on 13 drugs over the last six months, including one in Phase 3, a CTLA4 receptor antagonist for melanoma.

The update came amid news of a radical restructuring in the company's R&D focus. Pfizer is abandoning R&D efforts for heart failure and atherosclerosis/hyperlipidemia, according to a memo from global R&D chief Martin Mackay that leaked to reporters last week, along with those for anemia, bone health/frailty, gastrointestinal ailments, liver fibrosis, muscle, obesity, osteoarthritis (“disease modifying concepts only”) and PAD. Going forward, Pfizer will focus on developing treatments for Alzheimer's, diabetes, inflammation/immunology, oncology, pain and psychoses (schizophrenia). The company will continue to work in asthma, COPD, genitourinary, infectious diseases, smoking cessation, thrombosis and transplant, the memo said, though “investments in these areas will vary.” The firm is weighing whether to exit ophthalmology.

The shift in focus will not impact Pfizer's late stage pipeline or products already on the market, the company told MM&M.

Last month, Ian Read, Pfizer's head of worldwide pharmaceutical operations, told analysts and investors at the UBS Global Life Sciences conference that the company expects to meet a 2006 goal of reducing costs by $1.5 billion to 2 billion by the end of 2008, having already reduced costs by $1.2 billion – remarks which prompted speculation that another big round of job cuts might be imminent. Read also said Pfizer plans to have 15-20 regulatory submissions between 2010 and 2012, and that it was looking to boost sales in emerging markets to compensate for Lipitor losses. The drug, which brought in $12.7 billion for Pfizer last year, loses patent protection in the US in 2011, and sales are already softening.

Ray Kerins, VP worldwide communications for Pfizer, pooh-poohed speculation about tens of thousands of job cuts at Pfizer as "ludicrous."

"Of course we're looking at cost," he told MM&M. "Cost comes from many different areas. But this focusing of our business was something we were very clear about doing. Martin Mackay said in March that we were going to focus our pipeline. We've been very transparent about it, and it's a national progression. We're saying frankly that we're going to focus limited funds on a number of categories that need additional resources."
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