January 22, 2019 Blogs

Pfizer: Enormous Profits at the Expense of Patients

In mid-January Patients For Affordable Drugs released a report that examined the toll Pfizer’s price hikes have on patients. Today, Axios reported that “no drug company raised prices more frequently than Pfizer.” The company raised the price of its drugs 2,316 times between 2015-2019.

Given the new revelations, we’re adding an addendum to our original report in order to examine the legal loopholes Pfizer abuses while the drug giant hikes prices.

Tax-Free TV Ads

You don’t become a national bestselling drug without serious marketing. Pfizer’s blockbuster Lyrica is no exception. The drug ranked second behind only Humira in total dollars spent on direct-to-consumer TV ads with $216 million spent in 2017 alone, according to FiercePharma. Pfizer had three drugs in the top-10 TV spends in the month of December 2018: Xeljanz, Prevnar 13, and Eliquis, per the FiercePharma analysis. One independent news outlet reported that, “advertising expenses by pharmaceutical drug manufacturers have more than quadrupled over the past two decades.”

Drug corporations like Pfizer increase drug prices, which hurt patients and taxpayers in order to increase marketing budgets. Under current law, Pfizer’s massive ad buys are deductible from federal taxes. How can Pfizer justify spending millions of dollars a month on TV ads, tax free, without passing on some those savings to patients? We’d like to know.

Patent Abuses

Pfizer has repeatedly taken advantage of the broken patent system to block generic competition and keep prices high. The best example of this is Pfizer’s top selling neuropathic pain drug Lyrica.

According to a 2018 I-MAK Report, Lyrica, the largest contributor to the drugmaker’s revenue, was set to go off patent in 2018. Facing the prospect of generic competitors cutting into its market share, Pfizer obtained a 20-year patent thanks to a slightly modified Lyrica CR. Pfizer has been issued 68 patents to date on Lyrica, successfully blocking a generic competitor and allowing the drug corporation to increase Lyrica’s list price by 163 percent since 2012. I-MAK stated: “Pfizer’s patenting strategy with Lyrica illustrates how drugmakers game the patent system.” Lyrica patients can continue to expect price increases for the next two decades.”

I-MAK’s research shows that Pfizer is amongst the worst offenders of over-patenting. The corporation’s stroke medication, Eliquis, has been issued 27 patents since 2012, allowing for a 69 percent price increase. The picture is clear: Pfizer abuses the patent system without penalty and maintains its monopoly pricing power over drugs like Lyrica and Eliquis. Without any competitors, there is no reason to expect prices to go down. Pfizer will continue to milk billions in profits from it’s over patented drugs, boosted by huge marketing campaigns that benefit from favorable corporate tax laws.


Pfizer makes enormous profits for its executives and shareholders at the expense of the patients who rely on its drugs. It consistently increases the prices of its drugs to support huge marketing budgets by taking advantage of our patent system and paying few federal taxes.


Patients For Affordable Drugs is the only independent national patient organization focused exclusively on achieving policy changes to lower the price of prescription drugs.