Committed to ophthalmology

September 1, 2009

Changes of culture and strategy at Pfizer are good news for ophthalmology

With Xalatan® coming off-patent in 2011 questions have been raised about Pfizer's commitment to ophthalmology. However, it's clear that this is far from the case.

In March of this year Pfizer announced plans to work with Bausch & Lomb in the US to jointly promote eye care products and expand what both operations have to offer by combining their sales forces over a 5-year period.

"Pfzer's ophthalmology pipeline contains a significant number of innovative new molecules at mid to late stage development," said Robert Besthof, global commercial leader for Pfizer Ophthalmics, "some of which has been generated through partnering opportunities, others by leveraging our broad internal array of research platforms from other therapeutic areas. The pending acquisition of Wyeth opens up additional opportunities given its multiple centres of research excellence in small molecules and biologics. This allows Pfizer to continue exploring the applications of such substrate for ophthalmic applications."

Partnership and collaboration are how Pfizer sees the way forward. This has manifested itself through at least nine development partnership agreements to combat, for example, glaucoma, retinal disease, infection and dry eye.

Another example of collaboration is Pfizer's work with the University College of London using stem cells. This has potential for patients with end-stage AMD and other degenerative retinal pathologies including geographic atrophy and retinitis pigmentosa. Dr Eveleth said: "These patients are facing blindness and this is an opportunity to help them to be able to see again."

Pfizer now has a new structure, which means it's set up in business units as opposed to being a therapeutic area-based organization. So, ophthalmology sits within a "Specialty Care" business unit alongside other specialist therapy areas under the Pfizer brand "This has meant a culture change," confirmed Robert Besthof. "Our commitment to ophthalmology has not shone through in the past within the large Pfizer structure."

Joe Hopcraft, director and team leader for Ophthalmics in Europe agrees: "Our new structure enables more effective partnerships." Pfizer has recently entered into a partnership with an UK centre of excellence to develop innovative screening tools to enable improved case finding in glaucoma.

Clearly, Pfizer believes that its ongoing commitment to ophthalmology continues to be strong. Its success depends on long-term investment and key collaborations; as Karen Fixler Pfizer director and team leader for Ophthalmics in the US says: "We at Pfizer Ophthalmics recognise the value of working with healthcare professionals, corporations, advocacy organisations and the patient community in the fight against preventable blindness."