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fizer is contemplating a mega-merger to help soften the massive blow that the patent expiry on Lipitor will have on revenues in two years’ time.

The possibility of a major deal was revealed in an interview with the Financial Times by chief executive Jeffrey Kindler. He told the newspaper that “the real goal is to grow revenues…we are open to opportunities and constantly looking at those which are big, small and inbetween”.

The biggest threat to future revenues is patent expiries on key drugs, notably the cholesterol-lowerer Lipitor (atorvastatin), the world's top-selling treatment in 2007 with turnover of over $13 billion. Exclusivity on the drug is scheduled to end in 2011.

Mr Kindler went on to say that "we are always open to opportunities to enhance licensing, alliances and acquisitions, but whatever we do - small or large - has to meet the criteria of shareholder value”. The stance he would appear to be taking differs considerably from comments of other big players who are concentrating on smaller deals.

Of all the likely candidates for a takeover by Pfizer, ananlysts have regularly mentioned Amgen as a possibility. The US biotechnology giant would help the New York-based behemoth expand its presence in biologics.

Mr Kindler also told the FT that Pfizer’s cost-cutting measures are going well and have led to greater effectiveness. "We've become much faster and more agile, and eliminated so much bureaucracy”, he said.

“I wanted seven to eight layers from me to the bench scientist or the sales rep. In some areas, we had as many as 14 or 15. Hundreds of committees have been eliminated and people empowered," Mr Kindler noted.