8 lesser-known facts about Pfizer

Many people are familiar with Pfizer and its wide range of products including Advil, Viagra, Xanax and Robitussin, but hidden from the public are several interesting facts about the company's history.

Here are eight lesser-known facts about the drug giant:

1. Pfizer's origin. The company was founded in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1849 by two cousins, Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart. The two entrepreneurs borrowed $2,500 from Mr. Pfizer's father to start the company in a red brick building, according to The Motley Fool.

2. The first product. The first product produced by Pfizer was a form of santonin, an antiparasitic used to treat intestinal worms. But the product had a twist: It tasted good. The duo, Mr. Pfizer, a chemist, and Mr. Erhart, a confectioner, combined their skills to produce a palatable santonin product with almond-toffee flavoring that was shaped into a candy cone.

3. Pfizer's first top selling product? Citric acid. In 1880, Pfizer began manufacturing citric acid using concentrates of lime and lemon. As soft drinks like Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola gained popularity, the demand for citric acid soared, and it became Pfizer's main product.

4. Ownership shift. Mr. Erhart died in December 1891 and left his share of the company to his son. However, the agreement signed by the duo who founded the company stated that Mr. Pfizer could purchase Mr. Erhart's stake at 50 percent of the inventory. Mr. Pfizer jumped on this option and became the sole owner of the company.

5. Pfizer and World War II. The company's primary product leading up to the war was citric acid. However, in 1941, Pfizer shifted and decided to launch a major effort to produce penicillin, the first true antibiotic. The company was using fermentation technology to manufacture the drug, which allowed Pfizer to produce it in mass quantities. A few years later, Pfizer made most of the penicillin given to the Allied forces that stormed Normandy on D-Day during World War II.

6. Pfizer goes public. Pfizer was a privately held company until June 22, 1942, when 240,000 shares of common new stock were offered to the public.

7. Pfizer and pharmaceuticals. The company's first pharmaceutical sold in the U.S. under the Pfizer label was Terramycin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic discovered by the company. Terramycin, which was launched in 1950, marks the beginning of the Pfizer Pharmaceutical Sales Force.

8. Pfizer is the world's largest drugmaker. While Johnson & Johnson holds the highest market cap among big pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer ranks No. 1 in the world in terms of prescription drug sales. By 2022, experts say Novartis may nudge out Pfizer for the No. 1 spot in prescription drug sales.

Read a timeline of the company's history here.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars