Pfizer's Torcetrapib Failure: The Risks of New Drug Development

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Case Details:


Case Code : MKTG172 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 400;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 400 + Shipping & Handling Charges extra


Marketing/ New Product Development
Case Length : 26 Pages
Period : 2000-2007
Pub Date : 2007
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Pfizer, Inc.
Industry : Pharmaceutical
Countries : USA, Europe


This case is about the failure of Torcetrapib, a high profile drug for lowering cholesterol that was being developed by Pfizer Inc. (Pfizer). Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, was the leader in the cholesterol drug market due to its blockbuster drug, Lipitor. Its dependence on Lipitor was high as the brand accounted for around 25 percent of the total revenues of Pfizer. There were great expectations from Torcetrapib as Pfizer hoped that it would compensate for the potential decrease in Lipitor's revenues when its patent expired in 2010.

Because of its novel mechanism of action, experts believed that Torcetrapib would become a bestselling drug within a few years of its launch.

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Pfizer planned for one of the biggest ever clinical trials (in terms of the number of patients under trial) for Torcetrapib, ignoring warnings about some safety related issues with the drug. It had also planned to launch the drug only in combination with Lipitor in an effort to protect the sales of Lipitor post 2010. Due to intense criticism from doctors and patient groups, Pfizer later decided to offer Torcetrapib as a stand alone pill that could be used in combination with any cholesterol lowering drug. But Torcetrapib's development had to be stopped as it was linked to some deaths in the test population. This unfortunate development had left Pfizer with no key developmental drug in its pipeline that could compensate for the drop in Lipitor's sales post 2010.

This case discusses the impact of the failure of Torcetrapib on Pfizer and the reactions of various stakeholders (doctors, investors, etc.). It also outlines the risks of new drug development in the pharmaceutical industry.


Understand the issues and challenges faced by large pharmaceutical companies with regard to new product (drug) development

Appreciate the need for better decision making in drug research and development in the pharmaceutical industry


  Page No.
A Loss for Pfizer and Heart Disease Patients 1
Pfizer's Foray into the Statin Market 3
Pfizer Gains Market Leadership 4
Torcetrapib - The "Holy Grail of Lipidology" 5
A Controversial Launch Strategy 7
The Growing Expectations from Torcetrapib 7
Torcetrapib Flatters to Deceive 9
Some Criticisms and a Question of Credibility 10
Pfizer's Loss is Competitors' Gain 12
Pfizer- A Bleak Outlook? 14
A High-Risk Business 15
Implications for Drug Research and Development 16
Outlook 17
Exhibits 19


Pfizer Inc., New Product Development, New Drug Development, Torcetrapib, Lipitor, Research and Development (R&D), Cholesterol, Biotechnology, Statin market, Zocor, Marketing Management, Launch Strategy, Generic Competition, ILLUMINATE Clinical Trial, Pharma Marketing, Drug in-licensing, Cost-cutting Restructuring, Crestor, Vytorin

A Loss for Pfizer and Heart Disease Patients  - Next Page>>


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