The leader in pharma sales, Pfizer is well known thanks to several household name drugs, including Lipitor, Advil, Celebrex, Zithromax and the ever-abundant "little blue pill," Viagra. As the company looks at the looming Lipitor patent cliff, CEO Ian Read has been searching for new methods to keep revenue high, other than new approved drugs. Recently, the company has been considering spinning off portions of the company to create smaller, more profitable arms, a polar opposite of former CEO Jeffrey Kindler's bulk-up strategy of years past. The company's past purchases and mergers have included King Pharmaceuticals, Warner-Lambert, SUGEN and a $68 billion purchase, Wyeth, in 2009.

Wyeth provided Pfizer with an influx of 17 new drugs and vaccines, including Enbrel, Effexor, Prevnar and Pristiq, and Pfizer declared the merger made them "one of the most diversified companies in the global health care industry." And the company continues to move forward as it focuses on hot areas, including Alzheimer's, oncology and vaccines.

The company's legal woes have caused headaches as well. Pfizer has paid over $340 million in settlements for its menopause treatment, Prempro and has 1,200 cases pending for the anti-smoking drug Chantix. Back in 2009, it paid $1.3 billion for illegal marketing fines for the painkiller Bextra, making it the largest fine in United States history.

Pfizer has stayed in the top two on FiercePharma's annual layoffs list for the past three years, thanks in part to the company's 2009 megamerger with Wyeth, and the pressure could be felt for another five years. The company also placed second in the Top 15 R&D Budgets, with $7.4 billion in 2009. But those numbers will continue to slip as Pfizer looks towards development deals instead of in-house research.

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Today's need-to-know on the Pfizer-AstraZeneca drama? It's all right here

Another day, another onslaught of Pfizer-AstraZeneca news. We admit to a slight case of Pfizer Pfatigue, and if yesterday's web traffic is any guide, readers are similarly afflicted. But the $100 billion-plus merger proposal is massive, with enormous potential side effects, so even the rhetoric is worth consideration. Here are the highlights, from hints of a new bid to Pfizer CEO Ian Read's purported reassurances to U.S. lawmakers' heightened job worries.

Pfizer's quest for AstraZeneca becomes political theater as MPs probe $106B offer

The leaders of Pfizer and AstraZeneca are taking turns making their cases to British lawmakers, with the former trying to mollify locals afraid that its planned $106 billion buyout would maim U.K. R&D and the latter working to mount a defense in its home country.

Pfizer makes a case for R&D in AstraZeneca megamerger, but does anyone believe it?

With various U.K. media groups adding their voices to a crescendo of criticism over Pfizer's proposed $106 billion-plus buyout of AstraZeneca, the company's R&D chief is continuing to try and insist that this deal makes really good sense from a drug research perspective. But he's finding few buyers for that argument after years of Big Pharma reorganizations and mass layoffs in R&D.

Parsing Pfizer's deal talk isn't an exercise. It's the tell on AstraZeneca's future

With U.K. lawmakers skeptical of Pfizer's commitment to keep AstraZeneca jobs and AstraZeneca science in the U.K., Pfizer over the weekend released a series of videos focusing on that science--and downplaying the tax benefits CEO Ian Read crowed about so loudly when first confirming his company's trans-Atlantic bid.

Show me the money: Which drugs made the top 10 list on upfront deals?

Given the eyebrow-raising cash component in Celgene's new deal with Nogra, we thought it would be fun to list the top 10 upfronts paid for experimental drugs, ranked simply according to the cash included in the upfront--no surer sign of what a company really thinks about the potential of an experimental therapy or portfolio.

Pfizer prepares to file for approval with positive PhII MenB data

Last March, Pfizer announced it would file for approval for its meningitis B candidate. Now, it has positive results from a pair of midstage trials for the jab that will keep it on track for expedited approval--and a showdown with Novartis' Bexsero.

Pfizer's move on AstraZeneca outrages pols on two continents

Pfizer has managed to upset just about everybody with its $106 billion takeover offer for U.K.-based AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca doesn't like it. The U.K. Parliament is concerned about possible losses of job and status. Some U.S. politicians see it as a tax dodge, and even a couple of governors fear Pfizer will slash AstraZeneca jobs in their states.

Pfizer cozies up to U.K. scientists amid transatlantic scrutiny

Amid concerns that its planned buyout of AstraZeneca would deal a blow to U.K. R&D, Pfizer has teamed up with a host of British universities to collaborate on rare-disease drugs.

AstraZeneca rushes immuno-oncology star into PhIII lung cancer study

Anxious to fight off Pfizer's $106 billion marriage proposal, AstraZeneca's research team has rushed its high-profile immuno-oncology drug into a late-stage test. And they're setting out by targeting non-small cell lung cancer in the first Phase III in the MEDI4736 program.

AstraZeneca merger could bring the vaccines heft Pfizer's been looking for

Earlier this week, Pfizer's reported that its vaccines unit managed a 2% revenue increase in Q1, with anchor Prevnar 13's worldwide sales missing consensus estimates. But if CEO Ian Read can wrap up the deal with AstraZeneca he's been hankering for, that business could get a boost in the not-too-distant future.