The Case Describes the Evolution of the Pharmaceutical Industry and Its Unusual Strategic: Strategic Management & Leadership Assignment, SMU, Singapore

University Singapore Management University (SMU)
Subject Strategic Management & Leadership

Assignment Details:


The global pharmaceutical industry: swallowing a bitter pill

The case describes the evolution of the pharmaceutical industry and its unusual strategic environment. Attention is drawn to environmental pressures from regulators and payers. Key forces driving the industry are discussed, including addressing unmet medical needs, the importance of innovation and time to market, and globalization.

The case illustrates how an increasingly hostile environment, combined with a decline in R&D productivity, led to waves of job losses and sparked a fresh round of consolidation in the industry. On the global level, the historical supremacy of the US was being challenged with the highest market growth rates recorded in emerging markets.

The case is designed to facilitate the teaching of analysis frameworks including PESTEL, Porter’s five forces, the concept of the ‘strategic customer’, and industry critical success factors. It may also be used for stakeholder analysis and as a basis for discussion of social responsibility.

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A CEO’s dilemma

On 23 September 2008, Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler took to the stage at the World Business Forum to be interviewed by Fox News anchor Liz Clayman. Pfizer was the world’s number 1 pharmaceutical company with $13 billion1 (x9.5bn or £8.6bn) in annual revenues from its blockbuster cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor.

Industry evolution

As described in Box 1, the pharmaceutical industry is characterized by a highly risky and lengthy research and development (R&D) process, intense competition for intellectual property, 2 stringent government regulation, and powerful purchaser pressures. How has this unusual picture come about?

Case Study Questions:

1. Identify the main environmental forces currently affecting the global pharmaceutical industry.

2. How relevant do you think the Five-Forces Framework map is to identify environmental forces affecting the global pharmaceutical industry?

3. Do these forces differ by industry sector, and where would you place the different sectors in the industry life cycle?

4. Describe the strategic choices made by Pfizer from 2008 onwards, and comment on what may have been the drivers behind these choices.

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