What’s Next for Pfizer?

While the drug portfolio of pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) remains unmatched, U.S. patent protection for two of its biggest drugs, Lipitor and Protonix, ended in 2011, leaving analysts to speculate whether Pfizer has a pipeline large enough to replace its largest earners.

Lipitor generated $9.6 billion in sales in 2011. But since patent protection has ended, numerous generic versions of the drug have provided staunch competition. Currently, Pfizer has 87 drugs in its pipeline in early or mid-stage trials and eleven drugs approaching registration. The drug manufacturer has a wide range of drugs in development: 5 percent are vaccines, 14 percent are for inflammation and immunology, 17 percent are for cardiovascular and metabolic disease, 20 percent are for neuroscience or pain, and 26 percent for oncology.

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According to market analysis publication Seeking Alpha, this strategy “appears to have Pfizer out in front over its rivals.” Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY), like Pfizer, is also facing revenue loss due to patent expiration and similarly has a pipeline of 62 drugs in development. In comparison, Bristol-Myers (NYSE:BMY) has 46 drugs in trial stage, Merck (NYSE:MRK) has 35 drugs in Phase 2 or Phase 3 trials, and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) has 18 drugs in Phase 3 trials or under FDA review for approval.

A potential replacement for Lipitor’s success, Pfizer’s lung-cancer medicine Xalkori was presented Monday at the European Society for Medical Oncology in Vienna.

According to a trial of 347 previously treated patients, those treated with Xalkori experienced progression-free survival for 7.7 months compared to three months for patients on other treatments. The study is the first to compare the drug against the standard of care, the chemotherapy drug docetaxel. Results, said researchers, suggest that Xalkori should be the new standard for patients whose non-small cell lung cancer showed mutations in the gene known as ALK.

However, before the treatment is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, researchers need to study patients who relapse after taking Pfizer’s drug.

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