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Group.png Pfizer  
(Big pharmaPowerbase SourcewatchRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
HeadquartersNew York City
Interest ofOwen Smith
Member ofBusiness Roundtable, Council on Foreign Relations/Corporate Members, Transatlantic Policy Network
Sponsored byBill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Pfizer Inc. is a multinational pharmaceutical corporation. In 2012, it was one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies and ranked 57 on the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue[1][2], a position it has reached through aggressive marketing and buying up competitors.


Pfizer has a long history of mergers, partly for tax reasons, partly to get rid of competitors. In 2016, Pfizer was expected to merge with Allergan to create the Ireland-based "Pfizer plc" in a deal that would have been worth US$160 billion.[3] The merger was called off in April 2016, however, because of new rules from the US Department of the Treasury against tax inversions, a method of avoiding taxes by merging with a foreign company.[4] The company has made the second-largest pharmaceutical settlement with the United States Department of Justice.

On 19 December 2018, Pfizer announced a joint merger of their consumer healthcare division with UK pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline which maintains a controlling 68% of shares.[5]


Pfizer develops and produces medicines and vaccines for a wide range of medical disciplines, including immunology, oncology, cardiology, endocrinology, and neurology. Its products include the blockbuster drug Lipitor (atorvastatin), used to lower Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) blood cholesterol; Lyrica (pregabalin) for neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia; Diflucan (fluconazole), an oral antifungal medication; Zithromax (azithromycin), an antibiotic; Viagra (sildenafil) for erectile dysfunction; and Celebrex (also Celebra, celecoxib), an anti-inflammatory drug.

COVID-19 vaccine

On 9 November 2020, Pfizer and partner BioNTech announced that their vaccine against COVID-19 was exceeding expectations. In a press conference Ben Osborn, Pfizer’s UK managing director, "refused to explain why the company needed an indemnity."[6]

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla instantly cashed in on the announcement, selling 60 percent of his Pfizer stock at $41.99, its highest level in more than a year. [7] The sale had been arranged in advance under a so-called Rule 10b5-1 trading plan, which allows corporate executives to make predetermined stock transactions in compliance with insider trading laws. Bourla adopted the trading plan in August of this year.[8]

Sally Susman, the company’s executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer, dumped more than 43,000 shares to the tune of about $1.8 million. [9] The sale was allegedly made under a Rule 10b5-1 plan Susman adopted in November 2019.

In December 2020, CEO Bourla said he and his management colleagues wouldn't take his company’s Covid-19 vaccine shot just yet, telling CNBC that he and other executives will not “cut the line.”[10]

The vaccine was the first to be tested in the United States to generate late-stage data. The companies said an early analysis of the results showed that individuals who received two injections of the vaccine three weeks apart experienced more than 90% fewer cases of symptomatic Covid-19 than those who received a placebo. For months, researchers have cautioned that a vaccine that might only be 60% or 70% effective.

The Phase 3 study is ongoing and additional data could affect results.

In keeping with guidance from the Food and Drug Administration, the companies will not file for an emergency use authorisation to distribute the vaccine until they reach another milestone: when half of the patients in their study have been observed for any safety issues for at least two months following their second dose. Pfizer expects to cross that threshold in the third week of November:

“I’ve been in vaccine development for 35 years,” said William Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development. “I’ve seen some really good things. This is extraordinary.” He later added: “This really bodes well for us being able to get a handle on the epidemic and get us out of this situation.”[11]

Approved for use

On 21 December 2020, following approval by the UK's MHRA and the US FDA, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) authorised the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for the EU's nearly 448 million inhabitants. The EMA said the drug had demonstrated an efficacy of 95% and could be used in people aged 16 and over:

"Today's positive news is an important step forward in our fight against this pandemic, which has caused suffering and hardship for so many," said the EMA's executive director, Emer Cooke. "Our thorough evaluation means that we can confidently assure EU citizens of the safety and efficacy of this vaccine and that it meets necessary quality standards. However, our work does not stop here. We will continue to collect and analyse data on the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine to protect people taking the vaccine in the EU."[12]

Criminal and Unethical Activities

Cartel Pricing

  • Pfizer has been at the center of controversies over price fixing for more than 50 years. In 1958 it was one of six drug companies accused[13] by the Federal Trade Commission of fixing prices on antibiotics. The company was also charged with making false statements to the U.S. Patent Office to obtain a patent on tetracycline.

Withholding Safety Problems

  • The US Food and Drug Administration expressed great concern[14] about reports of dozens of fatalities linked to heart valves made by Pfizer’s Shiley division. In 1986, as the death toll reached 125, Pfizer ended production[15] of all models of the valves. Yet by that point they were implanted in tens of thousands of people, who worried that the devices could fracture and fail at any moment.

In 1991 an FDA task force charged that Shiley had withheld information about safety problems from regulators in order to get initial approval for its valves and that the company continued to keep the FDA in the dark. A November 7, 1991 investigation in the Wall Street Journal asserted that Shiley had been deliberately falsifying manufacturing records relating to valve fractures.

Withholding Trial Results

  • In 2004, in the wake of revelations about dangerous side effects of Merck’s painkiller Vioxx, Pfizer agreed[16] to suspend television advertising for a related medication called Celebrex. The following year, Pfizer admitted[17] that a 1999 clinical trial found that elderly patients taking Celebrex had a greatly elevated risk of heart problems.

Testing Dangerous Drugs in Africa

  • In 2000 Pfizer was accused of testing a dangerous new antibiotic called Trovan on children in Nigeria without receiving proper consent from their parents.[18][19] The experiment occurred during a 1996 meningitis epidemic in the country. In 2001 Pfizer was sued[20] in U.S. federal court by thirty Nigerian families, who accused the company of using their children as human guinea pigs.[21] In 2006 a panel of Nigerian medical experts concluded[22] that Pfizer had violated international law. In 2009 the company agreed[23] to pay $75 million to settle some of the lawsuits that had been brought in Nigerian courts. BBC reported on WikiLeaks cables that showed that Pfizer "used dirty tricks to avoid clinical trial payout", the company hired investigators to find evidence of corruption on Nigerian attorney general to persuade him to drop legal action.[24] The U.S. case was settled[25] in 2011 for an undisclosed amount.

Lying and Digging Dirt on Opponents

Classified U.S. State Department cables made public in 2010 by Wikileaks indicated[26] that Pfizer had hired investigators to dig up dirt on Nigeria’s former attorney general as a way to get leverage in one of the remaining cases. Pfizer had to apologize[27] over the revelation in the cables that it had falsely claimed that the group Doctors Without Borders was also dispensing Trovan during the Nigerian meningitis epidemic.


In 1976 Pfizer was one of the many companies that disclosed[28] that it had made questionable payments to foreign government officials. The company said that about $265,000 had been paid to officials in three countries but did not identify them.

In August 2012 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced[29] that it had reached a $45 million settlement with Pfizer to resolve charges that its subsidiaries, especially Wyeth, had bribed overseas doctors and other healthcare professionals to increase foreign sales.

Firing Employees for Raising Safety Concerns

In 2010 a US federal jury awarded[30] $1.37 million to a former Pfizer scientist who claimed she was sickened by a genetically engineered virus at a company lab and was then fired for raising safety concerns.


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  1. "Pfizer moves higher amid persistent breakup talk"
  2. "Fortune 500 Companies 2018: Who Made the List"
  3. "Pfizer to buy Allergan in $160 billion deal"
  4. "Pfizer, Allergan scrap $160 billion deal after U.S. tax rule change"
  5. "GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer merge healthcare arms"
  11. "Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech is strongly effective, early data from large trial indicate"
  12. "Covid: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved for EU states"