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Pfizer lowers profit forecast as Lipitor generics bite

Generic competition for pharma company's cholesterol drug drags first quarter net profit down 19 per cent

Pfizer's first quarter net income dropped 19 per cent to $1.79bn thanks to the impact of generic competition for the pharma company's cholesterol drug Lipitor (atorvastatin).

The drug, once the world's biggest selling pharmaceutical, experienced a year-on-year decrease in US sales of a massive 71 per cent, down from $1.31bn in 2011 to $383m for the same period following loss of US patent exclusivity in November, 2011.

European sales of the drug also decreased, falling 42 per cent to $1.40bn, impacted by the launch of Ranbaxy's generic copy in four major EU markets ahead of European patent expiry this month. The drug's performance is set to decline even further once copies are launched in other European countries.

Overall the company's revenues were down 7 per cent to $15.41bn during the first quarter of 2012 and the US firm has reduced its adjusted profit forecast for 2012 to $2.14 to $2.24 per share from $2.20 to $2.30 per share.

Beyond the loss of Lipitor sales Pfizer is also facing some major structural changes during 2012, having just announced the sale of its nutrition businesses to Nestle for $11.85bn.

Pfizer's CEO and chair, Ian Read, said: "[The deal] is a significant milestone that I believe will unlock the trapped value of this successful business and create greater return for our shareholders.”

The company is also planning to sell its animal health business, with chief financial officer Frank D'Amelio confirming Pfizer is “on-track to finalise a strategic decision” for the division, with any deal expected to conclude between July 2012 and July 2013.

Instead, the company will focus on new launches, such as Inlyta (axitinib) for advanced renal cell carcinoma and the Prevnar 13/Prevenar 13 vaccine, as well as emerging markets, where sales were up 6 per cent to $2.30bn during the first three months of the year.

Pfizer also has regulatory submissions under review for its anticoagulant Eliquis (apixaban), cancer drug bosutinib and tofacitinib for autoimmune disorders. The company said it expected final decisions on the three drugs during 2012, despite the delay announced earlier this year to Eliquis' FDA review.

2nd May 2012


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