Saturday night Pfizer dropped a bombshell. Two days after the company announced it planned--if all went well--to file for FDA approval of its developmental cholesterol pill Torcetrapib in the second half of next year, Pfizer suddenly pulled the plug on the drug. Tests had shown this pill raises good cholesterol and lowers bad. But the FDA says early Saturday morning Pfizer's Independent Data Safety Monitoring Board told the company about people who died in a clinical trial. 31 more deaths among people taking Torcetrapib and Lipitor versus those who took just Lipitor. The information came to light apparently during the Board's regular review of the safety data. Pfizer says there's no such heart problem with Lipitor. As a result, Pfizer is scrapping Torcetrapib which most analysts thought had the potential to become a billion-dollar-plus blockbuster.
On Monday, Pfizer shares, I suspect, will get hammered. The company had reportedly spent around $800 million dollars developing Torcetrapib. Now, in a press release, Pfizer says it will step up its cost cutting, acquisitions and drug development deals and perhaps "enhance" its dividend and share buybacks. Stay tuned. It's baptism by fire for new CEO Jeff Kindler.
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