Pfizer faces losses as Lipitor patent set to expire

Pharmacist Sheila Slomovitz holds upa bottle of Lipitor at a drug store in Pepper Pike, Ohio on Monday, Nov. 14, 2005. At first blush the Medicare drug benefit seniors began signing up for on Tuesday seems like a pharmaceutical executive's dream: Millions of people who formerly lacked drug coverage suddenly having the means to buy medicines. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

LONDON - Pfizer faces significant revenue loss this November when the big pharma giant's patent on the hugely popular cholesterol drug Lipitor expires.

"This is panic time, this is truly panic time for the industry," Kenneth I. Kaitin, of the Centre for the Study of Drug Development at Tufts University told The New York Times earlier this week. Pfizer currently earns about $10 billion a year on Lipitor sales alone, according to The Times.

But Pfizer isn't alone. Some of the company's major competitors also stand to lose billions to generic replications of their big-name drugs as a number of patents are due to expire this year. Pharmaceutical makers worldwide will lose approximately $50 billion in revenue this year to patent expirations, including Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Novo, The Times reports.

Despite spending $45 billion in research and development, lack of "miracle drug" discoveries, research and development career cuts, and pressure from insurance companies to keep prices low have reportedly put huge strains on big pharma.

Industry analysts, and the federal government, are concerned that drug companies seem to be lagging in the effort to put forward new medicines for FDA approval.

"I don't think there's a company out there that doesn't realize they don't have enough products in the pipeline or the portfolio, don't have enough revenue to sustain their research and development," Kaitin told the paper.

The economic strains have led to some of the biggest corporate mergers in recent history. In 2009, Pfizer paid $68 billion for Wyeth and Merck paid $41.1 billion for Schering-Plough .

The Times says Pfizer intends to focus its efforts on production of some lesser-earning medications; cancer fighters and anti-inflammatory drugs for instance, to stay viable in the industry. The New York-based company also plans to slash about 30 percent of its research and development spending for the next two years.