Pfizer's Lyrica success a boon for Northwestern University endowment

Pfizer’s Lyrica leads drug sales for the company--but it’s also doing big things for another of the med’s developers.

Royalties on the nerve pain and seizure med have powered the endowment at Northwestern University--which helped develop Lyrica--to $10 billion, making it the eighth largest endowment in the U.S., Bloomberg reports.

Lyrica is responsible for about $1.4 billion of that tally, the news service notes.

The drug has been a strong performer for Pfizer in recent years. It edged out anti-TNF giant Enbrel for the top spot in the pharma giant’s innovative products portfolio, and totted up $3.66 billion in sales last year. Only the Prevnar franchise of vaccines--which hauled in $6.25 billion last year--was a bigger moneymaker for the company.

The Pfizer-Northwestern relationship isn’t an unusual one. Universities increasingly rely on royalty income to fund research, and the pharma industry increasingly relies on--and partners with--academia on early-stage R&D. Princeton University, for one, collected $524 million in licensing income after Eli Lilly cancer therapy Alimta took off.

While Lyrica has been plenty successful, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Pfizer with the product. The New York drugmaker last year hit a snag in England when Lyrica lost its IP shield for its original use in seizures. Generics hit the market, despite the fact that Pfizer still had a patent covering Lyrica as a neuropathic pain treatment--and the company threatened to sue doctors who prescribed the knockoffs off-label for pain before a court order backed its case. 

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