US drugmaker Pfizer has announced that chief executive Ian Read would step down, and handover to the chief operating officer, Albert Bourla, on January 1.

In a statement on Monday by the company, Read will serve in future as executive chairman of Pfizer’s board of directors.

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It reads in part: “It’s been an honour to serve as Pfizer’s CEO for the past eight years,” Read said in the statement.

“However, now is the right time for a leadership change, and Albert is the right person to guide Pfizer through the coming era.”

Pfizer reported earnings of $3.9 billion in the second quarter, up 26 per cent from the year-ago period.

But like its rivals, Pfizer is contending with the expiry of patents on some of its blockbuster drugs, which has allowed generic drugmakers to offer cheaper alternatives.

This evolution had hit earnings to the tune of $23 billion during Read’s time at the top, Pfizer said in its statement announcing the leadership change.