Founded in 1849, Pfizer Incorporated has become one of the top research-based pharmaceutical companies in the world. As producer of some of the most widely known medications, including Viagra and Celebrex, Pfizer boasts a company mandate that claims dedication to and discovery of "new, and better ways to prevent and treat disease and improve health and well being for people around the world."
However, Pfizer's rise has not been without controversy. What was deemed the largest U.S. healthcare fraud, the pharmaceutical giant pled guilty to illegal marketing fraud in 2009 and was assessed the largest criminal penalty ever given for illegal marketing. In October of 2010, Pfizer was back in the news after its cholesterol wonder drug, Lipitor, was recalled.
Lipitor, known under the generic name Atorvastatin, is a synthetic drug that helps decrease bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels. The manufacturer claims the drug lowers the risk of strokes, heart attacks and heart-related complications from diabetes, as well as complications from coronary heart disease. Doctors have prescribed Lipitor for millions of people. In 2003, the medication became the world's first $10 billion-per-year drug. Last year, Pfizer claimed more than $11 billion in sales of the drug.
On October 9 of last year, Pfizer recalled approximately 191,000 bottles of the cholesterol curative. By the end of the month, an additional 38,000 bottles became subject to the recall. An odd odor emanating from the bottle was the main reason for pulling the medication off the shelves.
Investigation into the odor, sometimes characterized as moldy and musty, suggested it might be associated with the chemical 2, 4, 6 tribromoanisole (TBA), a wood preservative and pesticide. Inspectors linked the exposure to wood pallets and packing materials used in the storage and shipping of Lipitor bottles.
Johnson & Johnson, another pharmaceutical giant, encountered a similar problem in January 2010 with Tylenol, Motrin and Benadryl. However, the culprit in that incident was never determined.
Pfizer stands by the safety and efficacy of its cholesterol drug and says that medical assessments determined the odor was not harmful or adverse to patients using the medication. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also insists the health risks of the odor are nominal.
Consumers are encouraged to visit the FDA's website for further information about Lipitor or recalls relating to other pharmaceutical drugs.