In the Spring of 1998, America was rocked suddenly by news of a drug that could bring life to the dead and hope to the resigned. Not since Ponce de Leon set sail had the mythic Fountain of Youth seemed so real. That drug was Viagra: the first erectile dysfunction therapy not involving injections, hydraulics, or suppositories.
Up, up, and away!
To say the drug created buzz would be inaccurate - "uproar" would be more like it. Leno and Letterman couldn't get enough, pundits foresaw a second sexual revolution, tabloids shrieked, and dozens of Viagra sites popped up (sorry) on the Internet. Most importantly however, couples began lining up and laying down $10 for each Viagra pill. In its first month of availability, the drug generated 570,000 prescriptions, five times as many as other major launches. By summer 1998, 3 million American men held Viagra prescriptions. In some countries, Viagra black markets have appeared where individuals pay $60 or $70 per pill. The hype certainly paid off - Pfizer stock more than doubled, closing the market capitalization gap with rival Merck.
That naughty Viagra
While bringing joy to millions, the drug hasn't been without its faults. Four people claim to have suffered heart attacks caused by the drug, and one man sued Pfizer for $85 milllion, alleging that Viagra blurred his vision and caused him to crash his car. Nevertheless, the company expects in excess of $1 billion in sales of Viagra as it reaches out to millions more men with erectile dysfunction. Even Japan, which has yet to approve the birth control pill, marketed Pfizer's miracle pill within six months of its introduction. And, although Viagra is available only for men, the company is hoping to adapt the drug for women in the near future.
But rejeuvenating sex lives is not the only thing Pfizer is good for - the rising health care star is currently responsible for over 150 of the world's best-known health products. That is a far cry from the half-dozen chemicals produced by the company when it was first founded by Charles Pfizer and his cousin, Charles Erhart, in 1849. Then located in Brooklyn, Pfizer shifted gears when the government asked the company to manufacture penicillin for World War II. Now an international company marketing its products across the world, Pfizer boasts one of the largest and most successful drug research and development efforts in the industry. In the time since CEO William Steere came into control in 1991, Pfizer has risen from No. 13 among international health care companies to No. 4. And many in the industry, considering Pfizer's pipeline, marketing strategy, and momentum, say that even No. 4 is a little low - that its true position is numero uno.
Speedy research is the key
What makes Pfizer such a modern powerhouse? Many point to the innovation-driven R&D department. The company has extremely well-developed technology for automated rapid screening of compounds for useful activity, and has diversified its repertoire, producing drugs for just about every major disease. Pfizer keeps close tabs on development, and if research fails to meet projected targets, the company will move on to other projects. This technique has enabled Pfizer to produce more quality products and rebound well when the FDA slams its door in a drug's face. In all, Pfizer dedicates a full 16 percent of sales revenues to research & development.
The other half of the equation: marketing and sales
Pfizer doesn't just throw money at laboratories. The company has taken a lead in sales techniques and also extensively co-markets. "They aren't bound with the 'not invented here' syndrome," one analyst told Business Week. For example, the company even dropped its own similar drug to co-market Japanese Eisai's Aricept Alzheimer medication. Far from being a move of weakness, as co-branding is often perceived, for Pfizer it is a move of flexibility and strength that has earned it the reputation as the most sought-after co-marketer. As proof of the proposition, Pfizer was tapped by Monsanto Co. to co-market Celebrex, its anti-arthritis treatment. Viagra and Celebrex, along with anti-cholesterol drug Lipitrol, form a formidable trio. One analyst told Business Week: "It's like the Yankees fielding Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe Dimaggio in one season."
Focusing on sales
In addition to co-marketing, Pfizer has focused on developing its sales force. The company employs 4,500 full-time salespeople, and in spring 1998, finalized plans to build a $200 million training and conference facility in Rye Brook, NY, where sales reps will immerse themselves in two- to three-week training sessions.
The COX-2 Test
While Forbes magazine named Pfizer as the company of the year in 1998 for its innovative introduction of Viagra, many claimed that the true test for Pfizer's strength would be its ability to market Celebrex, a pain killer that uses new COX-2 drugs and offers the benefits of aspirin without the long-term side effects. COX-2 inhibitors apparently slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease and lower the risk of colon cancer, among other illnesses, in patients. Celebrex, when released in 1999, was believed to have received the most successful pharmaceutical introduction in history. By 1999, 42 state Medicaid agencies allowed their members unrestricted access to the medication. But Pfizer's pride was soon put to the test when the pharmaceutical giant Merck introduced a similar medication in 1999 called Vioxx, using COX-2 inhibitors as well. The competition became even more intense between the two pharmaceutical giants when Merck's drug was FDA-approved for pains other than arthritis, including menstrual pain and acute pain, whereas Pfizer's Celebrex only had been approved to soothe arthritis.
License to test
In a deal worth $27 million, Pfizer bought a nonexclusive right to the rapid drug discovery technology of Neurogen Corp., a small biotechnology company. Neurogen's advanced drug-searching techniques and software programs, mainly the Accelerated Intelligent Drug Discovery system, can identify and develop potential new drugs for various mental-health problems in only a few weeks. Under this agreement, Pfizer will be able to use Neurogen's systems in all of its drug-research programs, expanding its ability to find new mental-health treatments more efficiently. Pfizer's Trovan antibiotic was also re-reviewed by the FDA in 1999 after being cited as a cause of liver damage in approximately 140 patients who used the drug. Pfizer, in response to the claims, agreed to change the labeling of the antibiotic to note that it should be used only in hospitals and nursing homes for severe liver infections. The company also approved a drug in 1999 called Tikosyn to regulate patients' heart rates, and marketed a drug aimed at alleviating several illnesses of pets at one time, appropriately named Revolution.
Attention dog owners
The Pfizer Animal Health division announced in April 2000 that it will begin providing information sheets for all prescriptions made out to its drug Rimadyl, used to treat dogs suffering from arthritis. The sheets warn dog owners about the strength and possible side effects of the drug, issued after the firm was threatened with a class-action lawsuit. The suit claims the group is responsible for a number of reported canine deaths and injuries, for previously failing to warn owners of the drug's dangers. Rimadyl is still a popular choice among veterinarians, just not among all of its patients.
For those of you web surfers, here's another site to add to your browsing list - two actually- pfizerforliving.com, and zoloft.com. The first, presented in March 2000, is an easily accessible online resource committed to helping people manage their health. The program lets users create their own personal health program, designed to educate and advise on a variety of health topics and illnesses. The other, which sounds like the name of a battle warrior, provides diagnostics and general information about anxiety disorders and depression. It also gives access to specifics on the drug which gave the site its name, Zoloft, which is Pfizer's prescription for the treatment and relief of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and panic disorder.
Or forever hold your peace
A scant few hours after American Home Products and Warner-Lambert consummated their merger, Pfizer made an unsolicited $82.4 billion offer to Warner-Lambert. Pfizer also released a letter that it had sent to Warner's CEO, urging him to consider the proposition on behalf of his shareholders. The offer was significantly sweeter than AHP's, but it seemed Warner-Lambert was not interested. In response to the less-than-enthusiastic reception granted its initial bid, Pfizer dropped some of the strict conditions that it had attached to its offer and sued Warner-Lambert. Unable to avoid the hostile takeover, Warner-Lambert eventually relented and the two companies finalized the merger in June 2000 to form the second-largest pharmaceutical company in the world. AHP was hardly complaining; it walked away with the largest breakup fee in history - $1.8 billion - and is currently looking for a new partner with which to team up.
The new company retains Pfizer's name and New York headquarters, while Warner-Lambert's New Jersey homebase will become the site for the company's consumer products division. Pfizer plans on firing hundreds of workers (mostly from Warner-Lambert) as it consolidates, helping to cut costs by $1.6 billion by 2002. Among the hundreds to go is Warner-Lambert's Chairman and CEO, Lodewijk J.R. de Vink. The new Pfizer will have annual revenues of $28 billion, profits of $4.9 billion, and a research budget of $4.7 billion.
Before the takeover, Warner-Lambert was among the top 10 producers of over-the-counter medicines in the world, the leading producer of empty hard-gelatin capsules, fish food, and aquarium products, as well as holding the No. 2 position in worldwide sales of razors, blades, chewing gum, and breath mints. What began as a mom-and-pop pharmacy in Philadelphia in 1856 gradually grew into the mammoth Warner-Lambert through a series of acquisitions, partnerships, and other growth ventures, particularly the purchase of its Parke-Davis division in 1970. Despite the recall of and legal disputes over the diabetes drug ReZulin (which has been linked to deaths due to liver damage), Pfizer still found Warner-Lambert to be a lucrative deal, particularly due to the sales of Lipitor.
www.pfizer.com provides information on a wide variety of openings as well as links to other Pfizer job pages. The company actively recruits on undergraduate and graduate campuses across the country. Positions are most commonly open in the Sales & Marketing, Manufacturing, Research & Development, and Business Support departments on the business end and in the Animal Health, Pharmaceuticals, Medical Technology, Consumer Health Care, and Central Research departments in Pfizer's research locations. Requirements vary according to position, and the company looks for candidates with degrees ranging from MBA, BS to Ph.D. Previous experience in the industry is a plus in all departments, and insiders tell us that recruiters are looking for knowledge of chemistry, willingness to travel, good interpersonal and organizational skills, and experience with marketing.
Insiders warn that interviewing at Pfizer is "not an easy process" and may involve up to two days of interviewing and meals with company officials. Each interview will focus on one particular area, such as technical skills, teamwork abilities, communications, outside interests, among others. For some departments, the company may even require the candidate to give a one hour presentation on a subject of the candidate's choosing, usually related to the department's work.
Conservative, but not stuffy
Pfizer insiders indicate that their company isn't exactly freewheeling. "The culture of Pfizer is conservative, as would be expected of a major healthcare company," says one. Another agrees: "As a company we are very, very, very conservative and don't enjoy high risk decisions." Pfizer's conservatism, however, doesn't seem to mean that day-to-day life is stuffy or overly formal. "People are most often on a first-name basis, little in the way of formality," says another contact who notes that "even titles are evolving here from 'manager' to 'team leader.'" Another concurs: "it has a reasonably open and democratic structure, so while there is a defined line management structure, within that you are able, even expected, to make a personal contribution."
The huge volume of Viagra-powered publicity and glowing articles in top magazines like Fortune have warmed the hearts of our Pfizer insiders. One notes that "pharmaceutical sales certainly represents the elite of post-college opportunities for those interested in sales, or marketing for that matter. Of the pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer is very highly regarded for the strength it has in sales, marketing and research." Another insider picks up the refrain of many industry analysts: "Pfizer is well positioned to be what Merck used to be in the '90s."
Competitive pay, and don't hesitate to ask
Pfizer is aflush with capital, and beyond ploughing the dough into research and development, the company seems to be paying its employees very well. "Competitive," says one. Another agrees with gusto: "The salaries are excellent, and the benefits are among the best in the industry." The same contact indicates that annual pay raises ranges 3-5 percent in production and 4-6 percent in sales, but also gives this advice: "Make sure you negotiate your salary and are very happy with it. No number is too large at Pfizer if you have the qualifications."
High job satisfaction
Judging by our contacts' comments, now is the right time to work for Pfizer. One contact raves: "It's a great experience, and looks very good in your resume for future job." Another concurs: "Working for Pfizer is a fine experience." One contact in Animal Health notes simply: "I like the working environment here."
Aricept;Cardura;Cefobid;Cortizone;Diflucan;Feldene;Glucotrol;Lipitor;Minipress;Norvasc;Plax;Ben Gay;Viagra;Visine;Zoloft;Zyrtec;Listerine;Rolaids;Ban de Soleil;Dentyne;Benadryl;Sudafed
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