On Thursday, November 30, Pfizer’s executives conducted a well rehearsed dog-and-pony show over at Pfizer’s research facilities in Groton, CT. All interest was focused on torcetrapib; the most important new drug in Pfizer’s pipeline, which boosts good cholesterol.
According to Forbes, Pfizer Chief Executive Jeffrey Kindler told about 250 analysts and investors attending the meeting that torcetrapib was “one of the most important developments in our generation.”
Pfizer research president John LaMattina said, “We believe this is the most important new development in cardiovascular medicine in years,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
On Saturday, December 2-two days later-Pfizer said in a statement that it is terminating all clinical tests of torcetrapib and its plans to bring the drug to market. A board of independent experts had reviewed the latest data from a 15,000-patient test on torcetrapib and found that patients on the drug were dying like flies; almost twice as many dead as on the comparator. The company also said it is asking doctors participating in studies of torcetrapib to tell patients to stop taking the drug immediately.
Associated Press concluded, “The news is devastating to Pfizer, which had been counting on the drug to revitalize stagnant sales that have been hurt by numerous patent expirations on key products. It has said it was spending around $800 million to develop torcetrapib.”
Of course, in the drug industry, bad stuff happens. But in this particular case, the whole scientific world had been worried about the fact that torcetrapib raises blood pressure. Not a good thing for a cardiovascular drug. But that didn’t stop the Pfizer executives from hyping torcetrapib. Until it turned out that “one of the most important developments in our generation” was really a killer drug-quite literally.
And this is what makes Pfizer’s CEO Mr. Kindler and Pfizer’s research chief Dr. LaMattina officially the most clueless executives in the drug business.
Peter Rost, M.D., is a former Vice President of Pfizer. He became well known in 2004 when he emerged as the first drug company executive to speak out in favor of reimportation of drugs. He is the author of “The Whistleblower, Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman.” See: http://the-whistleblower-by-peter-rost.blogspot.com/