Chip-munching, sedentary people have made Pfizer a bundle of money. Lipitor, a drug that lowers cholesterol, ranks as Pfizer's top-selling pill for 12 years running. A blockbuster among blockbusters, Lipitor brought in $10.7 billion, or 16%, of the company's $67.8 billion in revenues last year.
This month, though, Pfizer loses a crucial patent protection on Lipitor and, with it, the exclusive right to make and sell the drug. Competitors are ready to swoop in with generic versions and swoop out with many billions of dollars.
In the next four years, patents on six other key Pfizer medicines are due to expire. Viagra, the drug of choice for treating erectile dysfunction, is another huge product for Pfizer. The company went to court this summer to fight for control of it after a challenge from a generics maker. To Pfizer's relief, a judge ruled that a key Viagra patent is valid until 2019.