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Will Gilead Follow The Pfizer Game Plan For Sales Growth?

John LaMattina

February 9, 2016

Back in 1989 Pfizer was a mid-tier pharmaceutical company with total revenues of $5.1 billion. Pfizer PFE +0.79% had come off a decade of modest growth, but internally the company was very optimistic. This optimism was fueled by the rapid launch of what was termed inside of Pfizer as the “big 5”: Norvasc, Zoloft, Zithromax, Diflucan, and Cardura. In 1996, Pfizer launched Viagra and signed a co-marketing agreement with Warner-Lambert for Lipitor. The cumulative effect of these products was tremendous and literally transformed Pfizer into a major global corporation. By 1999, Pfizer revenues were almost $27 billion. In the 1990s, Pfizer split four times, with a single share in 1989 becoming 18 shares at the end of the decade. It was indeed heady times.

But such growth poses long-term challenges. As shareholders demand continued growth on the order of 10% annually, the internal R&D pipeline is challenged to keep up. It is not as if one can grow R&D and expect an immediate return. Early research investments, particularly back then, would not flower for another 15 years. Thus, to meet its goals of being the world’s top pharmaceutical company, Pfizer turned to growth through external acquisitions. With the rapid growth in Lipitor sales, Pfizer merged with Warner-Lambert to gain exclusive access to this drug–a drug whose sales would peak at $12.9 billion. But the Lipitor growth exacerbated the situation; it was hard enough to grow a pipeline which could keep up with the sales growth that Pfizer was achieving. Eventually, Lipitor would lose its patent. How do you replace a nearly $13 billion drug, a drug that by itself had greater sales than most companies? Well, as most know by now, Pfizer went the acquisition route with Pharmacia (2003), Wyeth (2009), Hospira HSP +% (2015), and now Allergan AGN +2.16%.

Is history about to repeat? The growth of Gilead has been even more spectacular. Gilead revenues in 2005 were $2.0 billion. But in 2015, thanks to the launch of its landmark cures for hepatitis C, Sovaldi and Harvoni, Gilead sales were roughly $32 billion. Gilead is now a top ten pharmaceutical company. Yet it is highly unlikely that its internal R&D pipeline has the assets needed to drive the type of growth that Gilead has provided over the last decade. If that wasn’t hard enough, Gilead has competition in the hepatitis C space not just from AbbVie ABBV +0.77% but also now with Merck’s recently approved Zepatier. Given that Merck has priced its drug at a steep 33% discount to Gilead’s drugs, there will be even more pressure on growing revenues.

So, what will Gilead do to inspire shareholder confidence for future growth? Would it consider the “Pfizer script?” Pfizer has certainly laid out the game plan for dealing with such a situation. Furthermore, given the drop in the value of biotech stocks in the last few months, a number of companies may prove to be attractively priced. Will Gilead be willing to undergo the kind of acquisition it needs to continue its remarkable growth? Is there a company out there with the type of blockbuster that Gilead would need to acquire to meet its goals? But, if it starts down this road, will it be able to stop? Pfizer couldn’t.

(The author is the former head of Global Pfizer R&D.)

Discussion 1: Socio-Emotional Development

Cultural behaviors and practices vary dramatically around the globe, though no one practice is more effective than the other. These cultural behaviors and practices not only enrich the lives of children but also impact child development, group dynamics, and all aspects related to thinking (e.g., decision making). Thus, all domains of psychology—affective, behavioral, and cognition are impacted by culture.

For this Discussion, you will explore the impact of culture from birth to adolescent’s socio-emotional development. You also will examine cultural practices in childhood development and the impact on adult outcomes.

To Prepare:

  • Different cultural practices in childhood might relate to outcomes in adulthood. Consider one of the following aspects that you have experienced or you may know of an experience for this Discussion:
    • child rearing practices
    • discipline
    • attachment
    • co-sleeping
    • emotional management
    • peers and play
  • This week’s Learning Resources provide you with different sources related to different cultural practices in childhood. From your readings, select a different culture other than your own to complete this Discussion post.

By Day 3

Post an explanation of how the cultural practice you personally experienced or that you know of an experience from a socio-emotional development perspective is similar to or is different from the practice you read about in your Learning Resources. Further explain how different cultural practices in childhood regarding this practice might lead to different or similar outcomes in adulthood.

(Note: No one practice is typically more effective than the other, however, there are some practices that are quite different, and scholars debate if there are indeed some practices which are harmful, unhealthy, or even unsafe.)

Note: Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources and identify current relevant literature to support your work.

Final Med

The discussion assignment provides a forum for discussing relevant topics for this week based on the course competencies covered.

Post your initial response to the Discussion Area by the due date assigned.  To support your work, use your course text readings and also use outside sources. As with all assignments, cite your sources and provide references in APA format.

Start reviewing and responding to the postings of your classmates as early in the week as possible. Respond to at least two of your classmates. Participate in the discussion by providing a point of view with a rationale, challenging an aspect of the discussion, or indicating a relationship between two or more lines of reasoning in the discussion. Complete your participation for this assignment by the due date assigned.


You have two very ill patients this week, and each of them presents a very complicated case. First, you have a patient with an ongoing problem that has resisted diagnosis. He was enroute to an evaluation with a neurologist, but on the way to the hospital suddenly fell into a coma (a state of involuntary unconsciousness due to illness or injury) and had to be brought in to your medical facility by ambulance.

You will use at least 10 medical terms to describe this patient, and to refer to the original underlying problem the patient had in the first place. Use the nervous system medical word elements chart and the medical, surgical, and diagnostic terms chart on from your textbook to get you started on the medical terms you will need. You can include specific drugs used in neurological disease as you list at least 3 tests and procedures used. 

Your second patient this week is also quite ill and is presenting a number of problems. This patient is diabetic, and also has another Endocrine System disorder (of your choice). Consult the endocrine medical word elements chart as you develop medical terms—include at least 10 that would be appropriate in this case. You should consult  medical, surgical, and diagnostic procedures in your textbook as you select at least 3 tests and procedures for this patient. .

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