Pfizer, Inc. (PFE  ), has recently made headlines by agreeing to pay $784.6 million to settle a US government investigation that alleged the company's Wyeth unit had overcharged Medicaid health programs for Protonix (a drug prescribed to alleviate heartburn). As a result of the settlement, Pfizer was forced to revise its initial fourth-quarter results, which reported a profit of $613 million (ten cents per share): the company instead suffered a loss of $172 million (approximately 3 cents a share). Despite the blow, Pfizer is making an effort to move forward. As Doug Lankler, Pfizer's general counsel, stated, "The resolution of these cases reflects a desire by the company to put these cases behind us and to focus on the needs of patients."Indeed, this settlement is only a speed bump in Pfizer's long history. Founded by Charles Pfizer and his cousin Charles Erhart in 1849, Pfizer is an American global pharmaceutical corporation, headquartered in New York City with research facilities in Groton, Connecticut. The synthesis of Terramycin in 1950 put Pfizer on the path to becoming a large research-based pharmaceutical company (Terramycin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, effective against a wide range of bacterial infections); among its most well known products today are Lipitor (used to lower LDL cholesterol), Lyrica (to combat fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain), Zithromax (an antibiotic), and Viagra (for treating erectile dysfunction), among others. Pfizer is the world's largest pharmaceutical businesses-its shares have been a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since 2004. In fact, the corporation is so large that its competitors-most notably Novartis AG (NVS  ), Merck & Co. Inc. (MRK  ), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ  ) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY  )-can only effectively compete with Pfizer within specialized markets.

This is because as Pfizer transitioned from the twentieth to the twenty-first century, it acquired company after company to swell its ranks. In 2000, it bought up Warner-Lambert, a Philadelphia drug store founded in 1856, for $111.8 billion. In 2002, Pfizer merged with Pharmacia (largely due to wanting the full marketing rights over Celebrex, a COX-2 selective inhibitor). Pharmacia itself had snapped up numerous small companies over the years, including Upjohn, SUGEN, and Searle-all of which also became absorbed Pfizer during the merge.

And in January 2009, after two years of negotiations, Pfizer agreed to buy its rival pharmaceutical company Wyeth for a combined price of $68 billion in cash, shares, and loans ($22.5 billion of the latter lent by five major Wall Street Banks). It was this acquisition that solidified Pfizer's position as the largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in the world. However, the deal has been strongly criticized over the course of the following years. Although impressive in its scale, the merger did not achieve significant gains for its investors-investors that may be feeling even more disgruntled in recent months, as Pfizer's stock loses value due to Wyeth's Medicaid blunder. Nevertheless, Pfizer remains unfazed; it announced in November 2015 its intent to merge with Allergan, Plc (AGN  )-albeit only with joint US and EU approval, as well as the approval of its shareholders.