A history of Pfizer (1849 to 2015 )

Started in the 19th Century as a New York-based chemicals company, Pfizer has morphed into one of the titans of the healthcare industry. fastFT reviews the company’s history on the heels of its $150bn agreement to buy botox maker Allergan in the biggest-ever deal that will see it move its headquarters to Ireland.


Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart, cousins, launch Charles Pfizer & Co. using $2,500 borrowed from Mr Pfizer’s father. The company’s first product was “a palatable form of santonin,” used to treat intestinal worms.

The company already grows roots in New York, utilising a warehouse in the Willamsburg portion of Brooklyn as an office, laboratory, factory and warehouse.


Pfizer begins making citric acid, and becomes the leading maker of the tart substance. Demand is boosted by new soft-drinks like Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper and Pepsi-Cola.


Mr Erhart dies, and Mr Pfizer leverages an agreement that lets him consolidate ownership of the burgeoning company.


Pfizer incorporates in New Jersey.


Mr Pfizer dies.


Pfizer becomes the world’s No. 1 maker of ascorbic acid, Vitamin C.


Pfizer invests heavily in fermentation technology used to mass-produce penicillin. The move came amid a call by the US government for companies to expedite the production of the breakthrough antibiotic to help treat Allied soldiers fighting in World War II.


Pfizer becomes a publicly-traded company.


Pfizer becomes the world’s biggest producer of penicillin.


Terramycin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic Pfizer created out of its discover programme, becomes the first pharmaceutical to be sold in the US under Pfizer’s label.


Pfizer launches an agricultural unit.


After opening plants around the globe, Pfizer’s international staff-count hits more than 7,000.


Pfizer opens its global headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.


Pfizer crosses the billion-dollar annual sales mark.


Pfizer buys SmithKline Beecham’s animal health unit, deepening Pfizer’s exposure to the segment.


Pfizer buys Warner-Lambert in a hostile $90.2bn deal that created the world’s second-biggest drug company. The move gave the combined entity control of Lipitor, the blockbuster cholesterol drug.

Some criticised the pact for creating an unwieldy juggernaut. Indeed, a Forbes article at the time quipped the company “looks like a slow, sick dinosaur.”


Pfizer scoops up Pharmacia in a $60bn deal. The tie-up increased Pfizer’s size, but questions swirled as to whether a the company was getting too large to continue growing organically.


Pfizer is chosen for inclusion into the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a group of 30 US companies.


Pfizer takes a $2.8bn write-down on its much-hyped inhaled insulin drug, Exubera. It was one of the most prominent flops in the industry.


Pfizer buys Wyeth in another controversial mega-deal. The $68bn tie-up again increases Pfizer’s scope. Concerns are also mounting by this time in the science community that consolidation may be negatively affecting innovation.


Pfizer spins off Zoetis, its animal-health unit, in a $2.24bn initial public offering.


Pfizer abandons a bid to merge with AstraZeneca in a move that would move its tax base to the UK.


Pfizer reveals a $160bn pact to buy Allergan in a tax inversion that would move the company’s official headquarters to Ireland.

If completed, it would also make the world’s biggest drug company, and stands as the biggest-ever merger in the healthcare industry.