Pfizer has announced the latest stage of its restructuring programme which will see the New York-based drugs giant replace its current business units which have been traditionally run on geographical lines with three new divisions.

The new units will focus on primary care, specialty care and emerging markets as part of the company's ongoing restructuring process. Each division, which will begin operating at the beginning of 2009, will have total responsibility for functions covering strategic planning, sales and marketing, as well as drug development.

Pfizer said that the changes will help the firm better serve its customers – physicians, patients and governments – and the reorganisation is not expected to involve any further job cuts. The move is part of the plans set out by chief executive Jeffrey Kinder at the beginning of last year to establish smaller operating units that can enhance innovation and accountability.

These changes will not affect the work being done by Pfizer's R&D division which last week announced that it will end early-stage R&D in anaemia, cholesterol, bone health, gastrointestinal conditions, heart failure, liver fibrosis, muscle disease, obesity, osteoarthritis and peripheral arterial disease.

Lawsuit over Neurontin
Meantime Pfizer has been hit by a lawsuit in the USA which claims that the firm controlled the flow of clinical data on its epilepsy drug Neurontin (gabapentin), thus boosting sales at least until 2003, by delaying the publication or altering the conclusions of studies that had found no evidence the drug worked for conditions besides epilepsy.

Neurontin was a blockbuster until 2004, when generic versions hit the market and that same Pfizer agreed to pay $430 million and plead guilty to criminal charges for illegally marketing the drug for unapproved uses such as migraines and pain.

The company denies that it manipulated Neurontin data, saying that study results are reported by Pfizer “in an objective, accurate, balanced and complete manner, with a discussion of the strengths and limitations of the study. It added that findings “are reported regardless of the outcome of the study or the country in which the study was conducted”.