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Our History

A Journey through Time: How Pfizer Has Transformed Itself and Changed the World  

Pfizer’s history is a journey through time, a story of rises and falls, of successes and lessons learned. What has never changed through the centuries, though, is our determination to do better, to deliver quality and to contribute to a healthier world through pharmaceutical discoveries and innovations. Our aim is to make the best medicines that the world needs to treat and prevent illnesses.

Starting with just one medical breakthrough product – candied santonin – in that founding year, today Pfizer has grown to become a multinational company with ten R&D centers and over 100,000 employees in six continents across the world.


Below is a snapshot of our history from 1849 to the present day.

In 1849, cousins Charles Pfizer and Charles Erhart founded Charles Pfizer & Company in Brooklyn, New York. With $2,500 borrowed from Charles Pfizer's father, the two young entrepreneurs from Germany opened Charles Pfizer & Company as a fine-chemicals business. Their first office was a modest red-brick building, which also serves as their laboratory, factory and warehouse.

Their first product was a palatable form of santonin — an antiparasitic used to treat intestinal worms, a common affliction in mid-19th century America. Combining their skills, Pfizer, a chemist, and Erhart, a confectioner, blended santonin with almond-toffee flavoring and shaped it into a candy cone. The "new" santonin was an immediate success, and the company was launched.

The first domestic production of tartaric acid and cream of tartar, products vital to the food and chemical industries, is launched by Pfizer.

Upon Pfizer’s 50th anniversary celebration, Charles Pfizer says in his statement that "Our goal has been and continues to be the same: to find a way to produce the highest-quality products and to perfect the most efficient way to accomplish this, in order to serve our customers. This company has built itself on its reputation and its dedication to these standards, and if we are to celebrate another 50 years, we must always be aware that quality is the keystone."

Alexander Fleming discovers the antibiotic properties of the penicillin mold, an event destined to make medical history and to change the course of Pfizer´s future. His discovery of a infection-killing-drug called “penicillin” marked the dawn of modern medicine and millions of lives were saved as a result.

Doctor Richard Pasternack develops a fermentation-free method for producing ascorbic acid, vitamin C. After building a new plant and initiating a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week production schedule, Pfizer becomes the world's leading producer of vitamin C.

Encouraged by this success, Pfizer pushes ahead in 1938 with production of vitamin B-2, or riboflavin, and eventually develops a vitamin mix that includes riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, and iron. From vitamin B-12, the company moves on to vitamin A. By the late 1940s, Pfizer becomes the established leader in the manufacture of vitamins.

Pfizer becomes the first company to mass-produce penicillin – dubbed “the miracle drug” - which was in such great demand during World War II that US President Roosevelt urged that acceleration of penicillin production be made a priority.

In a major international expansion, Pfizer operations are established in Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, England, Mexico, Panama, and Puerto Rico.

1955 A fermentation plant opens in England, laying the foundation for Pfizer's research and development operations in Great Britain.

Pfizer launched its first once-a-day broad-spectrum antibiotic which and quickly becomes a top seller.

Pfizer establishes a microbiology laboratory for soil screening in Nagano, Japan.

As America celebrates its 200th birthday, Pfizer celebrates over 125 years of explosive growth.

Pfizer introduces a medicine for treatment of high blood pressure.

Pfizer launches a medicine for treatment of diabetes.

Pfizer introduces an injectable antibiotic.

Pfizer launches an innovative once-a-day medication for angina and hypertension.

Pfizer´s Sharing the Care, the industry´s premier drug-donation program, is launched. Sharing the Care provides medicines to more than one million eligible low-income and uninsured patients throughout the United States.

Fortune® magazine names Pfizer the world's most admired pharmaceutical company. Pfizer continues its reign as most admired in 1998.

Pfizer successfully develops an innovative medicine (sildenafil citrate) that results in a breakthrough treatment for male erectile dysfunction.

Pfizer celebrates its 150th anniversary as one of the world's premier pharmaceutical companies. Recognizing the company’s success in discovering and developing innovative drugs, Forbes® magazine names Pfizer "Company of the Year".

Pfizer takes the drug discovery process to a new level of efficiency with the opening of the Discovery Technology Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Pfizer investment in research and development exceeds $4 billion for the first time.

Pfizer and Warner-Lambert merge to form the new Pfizer, creating the world's fastest-growing major pharmaceutical company.

Pfizer opens the largest building in the world dedicated to the discovery of new medicines for human and animal health on its Groton, Connecticut research campus.

Pfizer launches a new antipsychotic for the treatment of schizophrenia.

Pfizer becomes the first U.S. pharmaceutical company and first top-ten company on the New York Stock Exchange to join the U.N. Global Compact, an international network that promotes good corporate citizenship by fostering partnerships between companies, U.N. agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), trade unions and academic institutions. Hank McKinnell, CEO and Chairman of Pfizer, announces the Global Health Fellows program at the World AIDS Conference in Barcelona - a call to action for Pfizer colleagues to volunteer in developing countries for up to six months on HIV/AIDS projects. In 2003, the first eighteen Global Health Fellows are sent into the field.

Pfizer invests more than $7.1 billion in research and development. On April 16, 2003 Pfizer Inc and Pharmacia Corporation combine operations, bringing together two of the world´s fastest-growing and most innovative companies.

Pfizer launches a medication developed specifically for the treatment of migraines.

Pfizer´s Sharing the Care drug-donation program celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Pfizer introduced the first single pill that treats both high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Pfizer Helpful Answers®, the pharmaceutical industry's most comprehensive prescription medicines access initiative is launched, enabling America's 45 million uninsured to obtain Pfizer medicines free or at significant savings.

Pfizer introduced the first medication for treating two distinct forms of neuropathic pain associated with diabetics and epilepsy.

Pfizer introduces a medicine for treating patients with advanced kidney cancer and gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST).

Pfizer launches a medicine to treat infections caused by Candida, a yeast-like fungus that can cause serious infections in hospitalized patients or patients with compromised immune systems.

Pfizer launches a prescription medicine to help adults stop smoking.

Pfizer launches Mobilize Against Malaria, its five-year philanthropic program (2007-2011) to help combat malaria in Africa. The $15M initiative, first announced at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2006, designed to address critical gaps in malaria treatment and education in Ghana, Senegal and Kenya.

Pfizer launches its Global Regenerative Medicine Unit, dedicated to stem cell research in order to discover and develop a new generation of regenerative medicines that may prevent disability, repair failing organs and treat degenerative diseases.

Pfizer enters into an agreement with Medivation to develop an investigational medicine for treating Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease.

On October 15, 2009, Pfizer acquires Wyeth; thereby, broadening the range of products and therapies that touch the lives of patients and consumers every day and at every stage of life.

Pfizer creates two distinct research organizations devoted to biomedical research: 1) The PharmaTherapeutics Research & Development Group, which focuses on discovery of small molecules and related modalities, and 2) The BioTherapeutics Research & Development Group, which focuses on large-molecule research, including vaccines.

Pfizer announces a diversified R&D platform named Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development, supporting excellence in small molecules, large molecules and vaccine research and development.

Pfizer launches a medication for treating non-small cell lung cancer.