Pfizer World Headquarters. Reuters.

Pfizer consigns PMU horses to killing fields of Asia

“If anyone believes that the downsizing of the PMU industry here in North America is advantageous for the mares and foals who suffer at the hands of Big Pharma, they are sadly mistaken” — Jane Allin

Pfizer World Headquarters. Reuters.
Pfizer World Headquarters. Reuters.

The news in January 2009 of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s announcement to take over rival company Wyeth for $68 billion in a cash and stock merger brought speculation and uncertainty regarding the fate of the PMU farming industry in North America. At that time Norm Luba, executive director of The North American Equine Ranching Information Council (NAERIC) posited that it was too early to assess the impact of the Pfizer-Wyeth merger. But more aptly, and much more perceptively, Shane Boyes, a registered Quarter horse-owner and PMU producer in Saskatchewan made the comment:

“They made a billion dollars from sales of Premarin alone last year. I don’t think Pfizer would dump a billion dollar industry. We will just have to wait and see what happens.” [1]

Pharmaceutical Industry: A prescription for money.
Pharmaceutical Industry: A prescription for money.

Indeed the strategy behind Pfizer’s announcement was in part to garner the lucrative HRT segment of Wyeth’s portfolio. Historically, Pfizer’s reputation as an innovative drug maker is less than stellar and they are renowned for securing drugs with several years of patent protection, high sales profits and potential future blockbusters in late-stage testing for FDA approval. There was no question that Pfizer would retain these product lines given the profits realized from these drugs derived from pregnant mares urine regardless of the inexcusable exploitation of women and horses alike. And with the impending approval of Aprela®, a combination HRT-osteo drug, in Europe, Japan and North America profits are expected to climb even further despite the fact that conjugated “equine” estrogens are classified as carcinogenic agents. In both 2010 and 2011 Pfizer’s revenues worldwide from the sales of the Premarin® family of drugs were in excess of 1 billion dollars. [2]

Disgraceful and disheartening.

This brings us back to the apprehension expressed by Luba and Boyes.

No, they need not have worried about Pfizer getting out of the HRT business. That was never an option nor was it part of their strategic plan. What they did have to worry about was the stability of the PMU industry in North America.

The gradual downsizing of the PMU ranches began shortly after the WHI results were released and now stand at approximately 22 farms with an estimated total of 800 to 900 mares after the shuttering of a farm in North Dakota earlier this year. A far cry from 2002 and 2003 where there were as many as 300 PMU farms housing 40,000 mares that churned out gallon upon gallon of estrogen-rich urine.

While it is true that immediately following the release of the WHI study, citing the horrors associated with CEE-derived HRT, there was a precipitous drop in sales of Premarin® and Prempro®, some of that market was reclaimed in time via reduced dosage recommendations, aggressive marketing strategies, price increases and the wide availability of these drugs without prescriptions through Internet sales.

What no one realized at the time was that Wyeth had probably begun to move their PMU facilities prior to or just after the damning results of the WHI were released to the public. As evidenced by their ghost written Prempro® and Premarin® articles between 1996 and 2004, Wyeth was well aware of the risks involved. It was only a matter of time before their unethical marketing tactics were exposed.

A simple Internet search shows that several pharmaceutical-based companies in mainland China and India produce bulk conjugated estrogens in powder form. Interestingly enough, or perhaps clearly enough, Wyeth/Pfizer is and has been a customer for several years. Whether their procurements are limited to conjugated estrogens is unknown. But really, who else would purchase these products in such quantities without a vested interest in them? Moreover, the Premarin® patent only just expired in February 2012 and hence no generics were permitted on the market up until this time.

In fact, according to information we procured from an inside source from one such company, PMU farms have been in operation in Northern China for the last 8 years. The company’s manufacturing site is also in the same general location.

Premarin Foal
Calculations estimate for every 150 women who stop taking Premarin, one mare is spared from the pee line and seven or eight byproduct foals will not be slaughtered for their meat.

Based on the limited information available it is currently unknown exactly how many of these farms exist and the number of mares housed at these facilities. Nonetheless it is evident that Wyeth, in its unremitting deception, quietly contracted out the manufacture of these conjugated equine estrogens to avoid publicity surrounding the evils of CEEs while concealing their true agenda.

It is well recognized that both Pfizer and Wyeth established presence in China in the mid-eighties as strategic protocol to gain a foothold in the rapid economic growth and tantalizing market potential for a variety of pharmaceutical products. Why then the “cloak and dagger” regarding the PMU industry? Wyeth could just as easily have launched their own PMU enterprises rather than rely on secondary network distribution systems. Perhaps cost was a factor or conceivably a more sinister motive was involved or perhaps a combination of both. One will never know.

As for the manufacturers of conjugated equine estrogens in India, and possibly other countries, it is only speculation at this point. One thing however is clear. If anyone believes that the downsizing of the PMU industry here in North America is advantageous for the mares and foals who suffer at the hands of Big Pharma, they are sadly mistaken. With revenues of over 1 billion dollars in 2011 and sales projected to skyrocket with the introduction of Aprela® to an aging population, the PMU industry will be alive and kicking, just not here in North America. As history tells us the horses are likely to suffer to a greater degree given the heinous crimes against animals that China is so very renowned for.

Patented Pill. Photo Illustration: Bloomberg.
Pfizer, Merck & Co. and Bristol Myers Squibb Co. began eliminating jobs, cutting costs and shedding business units to prepare for patent expirations. In 2011, drugmakers faced generic rivals to products with $34 billion in yearly sales, a figure 34 percent higher than the previous year. Sales at risk from patent losses will swell to $147 billion by 2015, Bloomberg data shows. Patented Pill. Photo Illustration: Bloomberg.

In any case, there is no question that Pfizer/Wyeth will continue to market and sell this vile family of drugs regardless of the fact that the patent expiration date for Premarin® was February 26, 2012. Prempro® is patent protected until January 2015. and once Aprela® is approved for sale it will have patent protection for many years and so a monopoly of sorts is guaranteed. That said Pfizer has seemingly made a very tactical move in regard to Premarin® among other drugs in their repertoire, most notably the blockbuster statin Lipitor® which lost patent protection in November 2011.

Interestingly enough on February 17, 2012, just shortly before the Premarin® patent expired, Pfizer and Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical, a leading pharmaceutical company in China, signed a framework agreement pursuant to an earlier announcement which would establish a joint venture to develop, manufacture and commercialize off-patent pharmaceuticals in China and global markets.[3] The key word here is “off-patent”.

A pattern similar to that observed in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s driven by EU over-regulation of the pharmaceutical industry is currently replaying itself here in North America. In part due to a rise in regulatory pressures here in North America as well as hefty plaintiff compensatory awards in mass torts drug litigation.

However a more compelling reason for Pfizer and other large drug companies to ramp up investments in emerging markets, particularly China, has been widely interpreted to be a response to the loss or impending loss of patent protection and subsequent profits for several of their blockbuster drugs. According to IMS health when a drug loses patent protection more than 80% of its prescription sales are replaced by generics within 6 months. [4]

Even more sobering for Big Pharma, DRX Inc., a health-care data provider reports that during the first 180 days after patent expiration the price falls about 10% and as much as 80% in some cases thereafter. [5]

For big name drugs this translates to big money. In 2011 Pfizer’s top money-making drug Lipitor netted them over $9 billion, the Premarin® family of drugs (12th) $1 billion with the overall revenue from the top 15 drugs on the list a whopping $32 billion representing over 55% of the total revenue from biopharmaceutical products. [6]

With this much money at stake this is not simply a cost-effective strategy, the realignment also has potential to drive brand sales over the longer term and substantially boost overall sales given China’s burgeoning population. As a number of industry researchers has indicated, China’s prescription drug market, set to be the world’s second largest by 2020, is estimated to be worth more than $110 billion by 2015, from $50 billion in 2010. [7]

More importantly, from our perspective, what will be dealt the horses?

Forever swallowed in the melee of human progress as we know it there is nothing to suggest that compassion and respect for our fellow companions on this earth will ever be realized by Big Pharma – animal or human alike. Big Pharma has been described as an albatross of medical monopoly that exploits illness for power and profit while spending almost twice as much on promotional propaganda as it does on research and development. To think that the horses would be spared is imaginably naïve.

Nothing has been, or ever will be, appealing or beneficial about the PMU industry and the Premarin® family of drugs; they are clearly harbingers of death from both sides of the equation.

Belgian Quarter Horse Cross.
Belgian Quarter Horse Cross.

Sadly the relocation of the PMU industry to distant and less regulated countries will carry with it the legacy of deceit, exploitation of the innocent and ever-zealous hunger for profit at all costs. The writing is on the wall. It is only a matter of time before Pfizer/Wyeth completes the transition.

No longer will the cataclysm and protest against the atrocities of PMU farming in North America be taken at face value by Big Pharma. No longer will Pfizer need to give this reprehensible exploitation the gloss of moral sanction. A new dawn for Pfizer perhaps – a blood red dawn for the PMU mares and foals, one governed by misery and certain slaughter.

Regrettably the suffering will continue at its worst; the new beginning in China bodes a critical end for the innocent mares and their foals. Distance – the great separator. Who will be there for them in their new homeland?

Perhaps there is a glint of hope.

While the horrors of animal abuse in China have painted an ugly picture for many around the globe, over the past several years there have been major developments in support of the plight of animals at the hands of these abhorrent and unforgiving industries and practices. Raising awareness and educating those who now preside over the welfare of the PMU mares and foals will be paramount in transferring our efforts to a distant land unaccustomed to the realities of the negative implications of these drugs from both a human and equine perspective.

It does not matter where one hails from; it is the goodness in each of us that promotes welfare and justice.









Written and Researched by JANE ALLIN

© Int’l Fund for Horses ( 2012

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36 thoughts on “Pfizer consigns PMU horses to killing fields of Asia”

    1. In an email we sent out to our followers, we reported we have been contacted by an animal welfare organization in China who want to help, who are starting by working to locate as many PMU ranches in their country as they can. It is a huge country, so this is a huge task, and the one we found was very far out. We will also be working with them to formulate a campaign in China.

      In the meantime, please urge your local OB/GYNs not to prescribe Premarin. Here is a letter you can send from the Int’l Fund for Horses under my signature. You need do nothing but print and mail it.


    1. Cynthia, please see our letter to Pfizer asking them to develop drugs that do not use pregnant mare’s urine ; and you may also find our post on Alternatives to Premarin handy You can find more, including action you can take to help PMU horses in our March for PMU Horses, which we just concluded, here



    2. Actually there is a synthetic out there but the FDA has banned it and continues to deny the sales of it – compounded bioidentical estriol. Not a single adverse event has ever been reported for bioidentical estriol yet the carcinogenic Premarin® family of drugs are freely marketed and sold. The collusion between Big Pharma and the FDA is both despicable and unethical.


  1. This is indeed the down side to globalization. Companies like Pfizer are going to be able to shift the majority of the things they have been receiving bad press for to countries where oversight does not exist, where protection for animals and people does not exist, where secrecy does exist. One of the reasons for Asia’s economic powerhouse status is because they have so few laws and regulations about what they do and what they put in foods, medicines, toys etcetera. If there are no laws governing the care of animals, none as to what fillers you can use, none regarding the use of hazardous materials and none governing the welfare of workers…you can attract business from all over the world from companies willing to do business that way for the sake of profit. It is incredibly sad to know that the majority of mares will be hidden from view as they suffer for our hot flashes. It is incredibly sad to think that Pfizer and others can make it look to North Americans that they are downsizing and saving mares from suffering here, while simply shifting the majority of production “under the radar”, so to speak, to other countries where I am sure they are welcomed with open arms…and where I am sure the poor horses will suffer even more.
    We must keep working to reduce demand for the product…continue trying to convince women and their doctors to go the alternate routes and maybe then we can stop this evil process.


  2. Wherever you are and whoever you know please get the word out to all women, political leaders, globally – HRT made from Mare’s Urine has to stop – it is not NEEDED and is Unethical in its production – ivalidate the market and stop the suffering of thousands of Mares and Foals now! Take action wherever you can PLEASE! Thank you.


  3. There are animal welfare groups working in China to try to stop the dog and cat meat market and they have made some progress. Several months ago a group of them blocked a road and rescued a load of dogs crammed in the cages that was headed to market to be sold for dog meat. Nothing was done to any of the rescuers they called in some help and took all the dogs. These dog meat sellers have been stealing pets and now days many Chinese have dogs and cats as pets. This is where you will have to start to try to help the mares and foals.


    1. Lets hope that these very people realize the situation of the mares and foals. I’m sure they will. And yes, we will be vigilant in promoting the need for oversight of this intolerant industry. Over the past few years the Asian population has responded positively to the atrocities against animals that exist in their communities and culture. This is most welcome given the years of repression this nation has experienced. And yes Barbara, they have just as much compassion for animals as demonstrated by their love of companion pets. These individuals have a huge task ahead of them and we will support anything and everything in their quest to end animal abuse just as we do here in NA. We are all one when it comes to the plight of the innocent; there are no international borders when it comes to compassion and respect for our fellow inhabitants on this planet called earth…..


  4. This will never end as long as women refuse to make an informed decision and instead go ahead and take the easy way out by taking pills made from the urine from pregnant mares, namely Premarin et al. How long must we bang this drum?

    And there are the doctors. We have come across scores and scores who claim they had no idea that these drugs are made pregnant mare’s urine. It is even harder now to convince them now that Big Pharma is using ‘conjugated estrogen’ instead of what it really is, ‘conjugated equine estrogen’, to get it across to doctors. Of course, that was the main point in taking the word equine out.


  5. This is sickening. I got involved in equine rescue as a result of the exposure of the PMU industry. I got 4 foals, and one 3 yr old. They are wonderful. That is why Americans need to understand what “globalism,” is. It is portrayed as good, but it really is evil. We simply bypass all of the legislation fought for so hard, by so many, for better quality of life for humans and animals, and this is the result.


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