Pfizer CEO responds to your questions

April 8, 2010

Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler answers questions from Reuters.com readers who responded to his column on public trust in business.

QUESTION:

I understand that you are trying to reduce R&D costs but maintain the same level of research done within your company. Have you looked at open innovation where you could partner with other research firms to accelerate your drug development? I know that Sanofi and Merck are converging to that model where partnerships are going to be important in future research.

Posted by rajp

KINDLER:

Collaboration and partnership have always played an important role in Pfizer’s R&D process.  In fact, several of the most promising molecular entities in our R&D pipeline are being developed in partnership with other leaders from our industry. For example, apixiban, which is being developed with Bristol-Myers Squibb, is in Phase III trials for cardiovascular indications and a compound called bapineuzumab is being developed by Pfizer and Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, to address Alzheimer’s disease – a devastating illness that affects millions of people worldwide. This compound is also currently in Phase III trials

Of course, a key part of moving studies like this one forward is clinical trials – and clinical trials can move forward only if people volunteer to participate in them.  That is why we have partnered with Private Access, an innovator in privacy-enhanced search technology, to encourage more people to participate in the clinical trials that our R&D pipeline depends on.

QUESTION:

You say, ” People can go to the Web to see how we compensate doctors outside our company”. But this was mandated by a court settlement, was it not? It seems that this, and other regulatory measures mandated by court settlement, are overseen by Pfizer officials. Do you feel these court mandated, but self-supervised, measures add to the distrust your company faces? Would you would be willing to cooperate in further court and/or government regulation?

Posted by P. Moon

KINDLER:

This is included in the settlement with the Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Health and Human Services, but we actually committed to doing it before that. (The website where people can read about this is www.pfizer.com/WorkingWithHCP.)

We’ve made a lot of changes in recent years to be more transparent. In 2007, we led the industry by reporting our post-marketing commitments on the web. In 2008, we began reporting the non-clinical grants and charitable contributions we make to outside organizations. And we’re publicly posting detailed information about our financial relationships with U.S. health care providers. Sharing all of this in a simple, uniform, and public manner is the best way to promote greater understanding of the work we do together to advance health and well-being.

In addition to changes like these, we’re working with federal, state, and local officials to actively support appropriate reforms. For example, we’ve advocated for a stronger Food and Drug Administration—one that’s better funded and shielded from the political influence that has gotten in its way in recent years. Why do we support a stronger regulator for our industry? Because it will give people greater confidence that the medicines they take have been thoroughly reviewed by independent scientists for safety and efficacy.

QUESTION:

With patent protections going soon isn’t the sudden focus on generic drugs as much out of necessity than a conscious corporate decision? How much would this affect R&D at a big company like Pfizer?

Posted by Rambler

KINDLER:

We’ve made a lot of changes at Pfizer to diversify our portfolio in preparation for upcoming patent expirations. Investing in generics is just one of them.

We’ve also invested in businesses that complement our biopharmaceutical businesses, so that Pfizer now offers a range of treatments and preventive measures for every stage of life. We narrowed our R&D focus to those therapeutic areas and diseases where the medical needs are greatest, where the science is most promising, and where Pfizer’s capabilities are strong. This includes oncology, pain, inflammation, Alzheimer’s disease, neuroscience and diabetes. And we’ve also focused on finding new ways to serve emerging markets.

And like all responsible businesses, we are continuously reducing our costs, improving our productivity, and making our cost structure more flexible. This is enabling us to make disciplined investments in new growth opportunities.

QUESTION:

Mr. Kindler. I applaud you willingness to take questions. The problem here is that between management and investors, nobody cares about anything other than money. If a company does “the right thing” it’s because they have to, or because they were caught with their pants down. There is nothing wrong with profit. It just shouldn’t be higher on the priority list than actually caring about people.

Can you give an example of any time your company, or any company for that matter, has ever TRULY gone against the bottom line to do what is right?

Your giving away zithromax is very commendable, but I don’t count that. It’s a very low cost drug, and giving it away was a great PR move and probably costs less than a good ad campaign. Ever give anything really expensive away?

Posted by mok

KINDLER:

While we’re in business to sell products, not give them away, we know we have a responsibility to be a leading voice for everyone’s ability to have reliable and affordable health care. That’s why we’re doing a lot to help people who cannot afford their medicines.

In 2009, we launched a program based on our belief that if you lose your job and your heath insurance, you shouldn’t also have to lose access to the medicines you need. Our MAINTAIN program (Medicines Assistance for Those who Are in Need) helps people in the U.S. who lose their jobs continue to get their Pfizer medicines free of charge for up to 12 months. We did this because it was the right thing to do, especially now when so many people are out of work. MAINTAIN is just one of our programs to help people who need medicines. In the last five years alone, Pfizer has helped more than 5 million people without insurance get access to more than 51 million Pfizer prescriptions valued at more than $4.8 billion at wholesale cost. You can learn more about all of this at www.PfizerHelpfulAnswers.com.

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