Pfizer Pfizzle

June 24, 2008, 2:26 AM UTC

It’s remarkable to see Pfizer stock trading below 18. That’s a price level unseen since 1997. When CEO Jeff Kindler (formerly of McDonalds ) came by Fortune recently, he fielded questions about the business’ well-known challenges: expiring patents, pipeline deficiencies, slow new-product approvals. He talked about his game plan, but one statistic conveys why his entire industry is suffering: Pharma revenues rose only 3.8 percent in 2007. This is the lowest growth rate since 1961. The stat reminded my Fortune colleagues of a 1991 cover story called America’s Most Profitable Business. That story says that in the 30 years before 1991, Fortune 500 drug-makers grew briskly and enjoyed the fattest profits in big business.

Those were the days. A March 2008 report by IMS Health predicts no relief from the slow growth. For one thing, Lipid regulators (such as Pfizer’s blockbuster cholesterol fighter, Lipitor), is the largest therapy class in the U.S., but sales are declining. Even more grim, the report says that last year new product launches in the pharma industry were at their lowest level in three decades. – Jessica Shambora

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