Since December 2013, Albert Bourla has served as group president of vaccines, oncology and consumer healthcare businesses at Pfizer. Under his leadership, Pfizer, with revenue of $49.6 billion and net income of $9 billion in 2014, received accelerated approval from the Food and Drug Administration for Ibrance, the first new medicine approved in more than a decade for postmenopausal women with certain types of advanced breast cancer. Pfizer Consumer Healthcare is a major over-the-counter healthcare-product business, marketing Advil, Centrum and Nexium 24HR. Pfizer recently announced its $160 billion merger with Irish drugmaker Allergan, which will create the world's largest drugmaker by sales and reduce Pfizer's corporate tax rate. Bourla, a veterinarian who holds a doctorate, previously served as president and general manager of Pfizer's established products business unit, where he led strategic development for Pfizer's off-patent drug portfolio. Modern Healthcare reporter Steven Ross Johnson recently spoke with Bourla about his company's research and development strategies, how Pfizer is responding to consumer-directed healthcare and the controversy over high drug prices. This is an edited transcript.
Modern Healthcare: Where do you see Pfizer's role within the current healthcare landscape?
Albert Bourla: Our role is to develop and deliver healthcare products that significantly improve patients' and consumers' lives. So far, we have made significant strides. We have a leading portfolio of products and medicines that support people at every stage of life.
However, bringing new medicine to market is a complex and lengthy journey where the probability of success is less than certain. Investments will bring products that can challenge diseases like Alzheimer's or cancer. Our role is to continue investing in R&D.
MH: How might that evolve?
Bourla: During the 25 years of my career, I have witnessed tremendous changes in healthcare, from new data tools to diagnostic instruments. But nothing compares to the transformation currently happening. We are in the middle of a scientific renaissance. The healthcare environment of the future will occupy entirely new dimensions.
People are taking a more active role in their own health management. Increasing consumer responsibility, choice, and digital and social media are transforming healthcare. Pfizer needs to proactively adapt to stay ahead of the game. Also, big data will open new possibilities, from drug discovery and development to using real-world data to collect product-user trends.
MH: Where do you see the greatest opportunities for growth in the vaccine market?
Bourla: We are focused on two things: The first is saving and accelerating our adult vaccination program, while protecting and growing our pediatric one. The second is establishing and building our meningitis franchise.
We have a separate focus on the most promising areas of vaccine research. One is prophylactic vaccines. We have active programs for staphylococcus aureus and clostridium difficile, diseases that do not currently have any vaccine solution. We are working on maternal vaccines that could protect against Group B streptococcus and RSV and CMV, important infant diseases. Also, we have very active immuno-oncology programs that include vaccines against cancer.