Who Is Pharmacia?
According to the book Mega Mergers and Acquisitions, Pharmacia was founded in Stockholm Sweden in 1911 by pharmacist Gustav Felix Grönfeldt. The company was named after the Greek word translated as pharmakeia, which means sorcery.
Early revenue for the company came from the medicine Phospho-Energon, a concoction that was marketed as a cure-all. Later, the company acquired the rights to a dextran solution that could be used as a replacement for blood plasma in transfusions and marketed it as the drug Macrodex. Other similar products were marketed.
In 1995, the company merged with the American company Upjohn, and it was renamed as Pharmacia & Upjohn. In 2002, Pfizer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, bought Pharmacia & Upjohn. Their headquarters are now in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the company is under the umbrella of the Pfizer Corporation.
Pharmacia & Upjohn market a number of medications as part of the Pfizer Corporation. Some of the better-known drugs marketed by these companies are outlined below:
- Acnederm, Erolcid, or Erythrocin (erythromycin) is an antibiotic that can be used to treat a number of infections, including bronchitis, diphtheria, Legionnaires’ disease, etc.
- Carbocaine (mepivacaine) is a topical anesthetic.
- Cortisone is a glucocorticoid used as an injectable method of pain control.
- Depo‐Estradiol (estradiol) is an injectable form of estrogen used to assist in treatment of the symptoms of menopause.
- Depo‐Medrol (methylprednisolone) is a corticosteroid that can be used to treat inflammation caused by several different conditions as well as to treat conditions that are associated with impaired adrenal gland functions.
- Depo‐Provera (medroxyprogesterone) is a birth control medication.
- Detrol (tolterodine) is designed to treat overactive bladder syndrome.
- Didrex (benzphetamine) is an anorectic that can promote weight loss.
- Emcyt (estramustine) is used in the treatment of prostate cancer.
- Florone (diflorasone) is a corticosteroid that can be used to treat different skin conditions, including allergic reactions, eczema, psoriasis, etc.
- Geodon (ziprasidone) is an antipsychotic medication that can be used in the treatment of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder when individuals have psychotic symptoms associated with manic episodes.
- Halcion (triazolam) is a benzodiazepine commonly used as a sleep aid.
- Halotestin (fluoxymesterone) is a steroid that has been used to treat breast cancer, low testosterone, and issues with muscle wasting or testosterone imbalances that are side effects of some other disease or condition.
- Lincocin (lincomycin) is an antibiotic that is typically only used for individuals who are allergic to other commonly used antibiotics, such as penicillin, due to potential toxic side effects.
- Loniten (minoxidil) is a vasodilator that can be used to treat high blood pressure.
- Motrin (ibuprofen) is a well-known nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug used for pain control.
- Prempro (conjugated estrogens/medroxyprogesterone acetate) was designed to treat issues that occur during menopause, such as hot flashes, irritation, and burning.
- Rogaine (minoxidil) is designed to treat male pattern baldness or baldness in females.
- Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine commonly used to control anxiety and initiate sleep.
Lawsuits and Other Issues
When the Pfizer Company purchased Pharmacia & Upjohn, they became involved in a number of additional legal entanglements that were already being considered. There been different litigations based on number of drugs that have been originally tied to Pharmacia and/or Upjohn or the conglomeration of both companies. Some of the better-known ones are outlined below:
- A number of issues had already been ongoing in court regarding the benzodiazepine Halcion before the Upjohn Company merged with the Pharmacia Company. There were many potential lawsuits against Upjohn, the parent company for Halcion, that had already been in effect, and numerous other potential lawsuits regarding issues with side effects not being clearly specified are still ongoing. One early court ruling regarding Halcion that affected a number of other medications occurred in 1996 when it was determined that pharmaceutical companies could be held liable for the side effects of their medications that were not fully disclosed to doctors and patients. This ruling had broader implications for all companies.Lawsuits filed in relation to Halcion have claimed that it increases suicide potential, is associated with psychotic behaviors (which can lead to suicide), and causes a number of other potential dangerous side effects, including cognitive effects that the company (Upjohn) had knowledge of but did not disclose. As both the Pharmacia Corporation and the Pfizer Corporation are intertwined, any additional litigation as a result of Halcion is tied to Pfizer through the merger.
- Another case of being guilty by association for the Pfizer Corporation occurred in the large lawsuits associated with the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug Bextra (valdecoxib) that was eventually removed from the market. The Pharmacia & Upjohn Company pled guilty in 2009 to misbranding the painkiller Bextra and promoting the drug for a variety of off-label uses and in dosages that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Bextra use is associated with various side effects, some of them potentially dangerous, such as serious cardiovascular issues. Pfizer, Inc. agreed to pay about $2.3 billion to settle claims associated with this drug.
- Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Pharmacia & Upjohn regarding their hormone replacement therapy drugs, such as Prempro, and their associations with breast cancer. Reports indicated that before 2006, the Pfizer Corporation had lost 10 of 18 lawsuits on this issue and had settled a third of their pending cases regarding these drugs. This issue continues, and it is a safe bet that many of these cases get settled out of court before they make headlines.
- Several large pharmaceutical corporations have been involved in lawsuits associated with testosterone replacement drugs. Typically, these lawsuits are brought against corporations because they attempt to increase the profits for testosterone replacement medications by marketing them as solutions to the so-called “Low-T” syndrome (low testosterone) that inevitably occurs in most males as they get older. This represents an unethical practice of a pharmaceutical company attempting to influence both physicians and consumers to prescribe or use these medications for off-label purposes that are not approved by the FDA. In actuality, testosterone replacement medications are designed to assist individuals who have low testosterone levels due to some type of disorder or as a result of surgery, but they are not designed to treat issues associated with normal aging in men. As it turns out, many of the medications prescribed for so-called Low-T syndrome are given in higher dosages or taken more frequently than their generally prescribed uses.Pharmaceutical companies, including Pharmacia & Upjohn, have attempted to increase profits by marketing testosterone replacement medications for this purpose. They have gotten caught up in the large number of lawsuits as a result because individuals who use testosterone replacement medications often develop cardiovascular issues and may also have an increased risk of cancer or other syndromes.
- In another attempt to increase profits by promoting off-label uses of the drug, the drug Geodon, an antipsychotic drug that is approved by the FDA for the treatment of schizophrenia and mania that can occur in bipolar disorder (especially if the manic episodes include psychotic behavior like hallucinations or delusions), was pushed by Pharmacia & Upjohn for a number of other uses that are not approved, such as the treatment of depression, dementia, anxiety, behavioral control, etc. Pfizer has also been under investigation and in legal battles regarding its promotion of off-label uses of other drugs, such as Lyrica (an anticonvulsant) and Cymbalta (an atypical antidepressant medication).
The Pharmacia Company originated in Sweden in the early 1900s and later merged with the Upjohn Company. Both were later purchased by the Pfizer Corporation. Pharmacia & Upjohn have been involved in numerous lawsuits regarding unethical practices and marketing strategies associated with several of their major medications and have been forced to pay out billions of dollars; however, as with all major pharmaceutical corporations, these lawsuits are considered to be costs of business in this sector.