- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The number of experimental drugs in human testing by Pfizer Inc. has shrunk by 12 percent over the past six months, mainly because the company has narrowed the areas in which it does research.

Pfizer, the world’s biggest drugmaker, said Wednesday it now has 100 drugs in clinical studies, down from 114 on Sept. 30.

Still, a total of 21 experimental drugs either advanced into later stages of testing or, in the case of two, had applications filed for approval for an additional use.

Human testing on a total of 26 drugs has ended, mostly in the early phases. But studies on five drugs that were in final testing were halted, including a pancreatic cancer drug that wasn’t helping patients. Others included drugs for anxiety, fibromyalgia and obesity that would have faced tough market competition or difficulty getting approved. The fifth, schizophrenia drug Geodon, wasn’t effective in patients with bipolar depression.

Meanwhile, drugs for a dozen other conditions, either developed at Pfizer or by partners, were added to the research portfolio.

“To us, it’s not about the number of projects that we have in development. It’s about the quality of the projects,” said Pfizer spokeswoman Kristen Neese.

The New York-based company’s semiannual update on its research pipeline noted Pfizer started seven final-stage testing programs since September.

Pfizer said one is for the first new pill in 10 years to halt or reverse the immune disorder rheumatoid arthritis, and another is to reduce knee pain in osteoarthritis, the type common with aging. Others, being developed with partners, include an Alzheimer’s disease drug.

Like most drug companies, Pfizer is facing generic competition to blockbuster pills while its multibillion-dollar research operation has not been able to produce enough major new drugs to replace revenues that soon will be gone. Its cholesterol fighter Lipitor, the world’s top-selling drug with about $12.5 billion in annual sales, should face generic competition at the end of 2011.

Last September, Pfizer said it would focus on six areas with potential for big profits and benefit to patients: cancer, pain, inflammation, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and psychiatric disorders.

It’s getting out of research in areas including heart disease and obesity, and four drugs for those conditions were among those canceled. Many others just didn’t show enough promise, including two compounds for diabetes.

In afternoon trading, Pfizer shares were down 4 cents at $13.96.

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