Pfizer After Wyeth After Lederle?
Pfizer After Wyeth After Lederle?
A pharma-vet offers a history lesson following our "Pfizer After Wyeth" interview
By Robert A. Nash, 3/26/2010, original
I read "PGM After Wyeth" in the March 2010 issue of Contract Pharma with great interest.

Unfortunately, the article never mentioned the role Lederle played in Wyeth's success prior to the recent buyout by Pfizer. When I joined Lederle in 1960, Lederle and Pfizer were on the same level in terms of product lines and sales. In time, Pfizer became the world's largest pharma company, while Lederle when downhill. I attribute it to the fact that Pfizer understood the pharmaceutical business, while American Cyanamid treated Achromycin etc. like another Formica or Melmac.

The purpose of this post is to shine some light on the pharmaceutical industry of Rockland County. We retirees still call the complex in Pearl River, "Lederle Laboratories," even though most of the signs are gone and Dr. Lederle's portrait hangs on an obscure wall in the library.

Dr. Ernst Lederle was born on Staten Island in the 1880's, went to school in New York City and became a laboratory scientist. He worked for the NYC Board of Health and was interested in sanitary conditions for food production and the possibility of manufacturing antitoxins and vaccines. He purchased the 99-acre Jacob Toerfler dairy farm in Pearl River in 1907 and moved much of his research and manufacturing operations in bacteriology and biochemistry from NYC to that site. Dr. Lederle never lived in Rockland County and died of septicemia in 1921 (a condition that would have been easy to treat with the sulfa drugs and antibiotics manufactured by his company in the 1930's and 1940's). Under his successors, the Bell brothers (Frederic then William), the Lederle Antitoxin Laboratory produce antitoxins and vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid, anthrax, smallpox, cholera and gas gangrene. In 1930, the facility in Pearl River was renamed Lederle Laboratories and research in the 1930's developed pituitary, thyroid and digitalis extracts.

Important sulfa drugs sourced from American Cyanamid were added to the product line in 1939. Dr. Wilbur G. Malcolm became generla manager in 1940 and brought in Dr. SubbaRow to head up the research program. Because of its fermentation capabilities, Lederle got into the penicillin production business during the second World War and also became the largest supplier of sterile blood plasma. During this period American Cyanamid took over full control of Lederle Laboratories.

In 1945, Dr. Benjamin Duggar of the University of Wisconsin with a team of Lederle scientists discovered Aureomycin, to be followed by Achromycin, Declomycin and Minocycline. In the 1950's, Diamox (diuretic) and Aristocort (anti-inflammatory steroid) were marketed, followed by Orimune (poliovirus vaccine) and Myambutol (anti-TB drug) in the 1960's. In the 1970's, Loxitane (anti-psychotic) and Asendin (anti-depressant) were added to the product line. The 1970's and 1980's saw the rebirth of the multivitamin business, culminating in the Centrum line.

I was instrumental in getting the marketing department to think about the vitamin business during the 1970's when there were no blockbusters coming out of research. The people in my development laboratories had developed the technology to product large capsule-shaped tablets, which could then be film-coated to reduce size and protect the stability of the vitamin-mineral formulas suggested by Dr. Leon Ellenbogen.

Lederle was purchased from American Cyanamid in 1994 by American Home Products Corp., and the Pearl River operation was renamed Wyeth-Ayerst. American Home Products renamed itself Wyeth in 2002 and became a piece of Pfizer in 2009.

Why do I go on at such length about Pearl River? After all, it's the closest pharmaceutical operation to Contract Pharma's offices!

Robert A. Nash, Ph.D. is a consultant and adjunct professor in Mahwah, NJ. He can be reached at