NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Drug stocks are supposed to be the ultimate defensive plays in an uncertain economy.
So you'd expect Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, to be among the safest of safe havens in the current turbulent market.
But that hasn't been the case. Pfizer and the rest of the pharmaceutical industry have come under pressure this year due to increased competition from generic drug companies and concerns about thin "pipelines" at some companies -- a lack of new medicines under development.
Making matters worse, drug makers find themselves facing fears about the health risks of already approved drugs due to Merck's recall of its blockbuster arthritis medication Vioxx earlier this month.
The American Stock Exchange drug stock index has lost about 12 percent year to date. Shares of Pfizer have performed worse, falling more than 15 percent.
Still, Pfizer's growth potential remains strong.
Wall Street expects its third-quarter profit to climb 15 percent from a year earlier and its full-year profit to jump 21 percent, more than double the industry average, according to First Call.
Analysts also say Pfizer, unlike some of its competitors, has a strong stable of new drugs it plans to bring to market the next few years. (Pfizer is due to report results for the latest quarter on Wednesday.)
So have investors overreacted to the Vioxx concerns or are Pfizer's shares a tough pill to swallow? Find out in our Stock Spotlight »