Pfizer - 10 Largest U.S. Patent Losses

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Drug: Lipitor
Company: Pfizer
2010 U.S. sales: $5.329 billion/$10.133 billion global
Impact: 18.35% of U.S. sales
Exclusivity expires: November 2011

Lipitor is the behemoth drug everyone points to when discussing the long shadow of generic competition. And there's no question Lipitor exemplifies the mega-blockbuster era. A mass-market drug, marketed by legions of primary-care sales reps, that quickly became its company's top seller--and then, perhaps, its crutch.

With $10 billion in global revenue, Lipitor financed many R&D projects and paid the year-end bonus of many executives. Without it, Pfizer has to become an entirely different company, CEO Ian Read (photo) says. It will certainly be much smaller, especially after more than 55,000 job cuts, dozens of shuttered facilities and sales or spinoffs of at least two big business units, i.e., animal health and nutritionals. New drugs--such as the targeted cancer therapy Xalkori and the anti-coagulant Eliquis--may grow to blockbuster status, but they're not likely to reach Lipitor's sales heights. Mega drugs for large populations are no longer Big Pharma's target, and Pfizer is the biggest pharma in the world these days.

That's not to say Pfizer plans to let Lipitor go gently into the good night. The company is said to be weighing an application for an over-the-counter version of the drug. And it's supplying an authorized generic to Watson Pharmaceuticals beginning next month to capture a share of the market for Lipitor copies. Armed with pediatric studies and a new children's version, it's asking for 6 months of additional Lipitor exclusivity in Europe. That's an extension that could be worth almost $800 million.