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Pfizer lost $5bn to generics in 2011

Pharma giant’s fourth quarter hit particularly hard after Lipitor’s November US patent expiry

Generic competition for some its biggest-selling drugs saw Pfizer's fourth quarter profits halved, capping a difficult year for the pharma giant.

Pfizer's chief executive Ian Read said the company faced “product losses of exclusivity of approximately $5bn” in 2011, as the likes of its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor (atorvastatin) went off patent.

The US-based pharma firm made $1.44bn in the last three months of 2011, compared to $2.89bn during the same period in 2010, as it weathered the November 2011 launch of generic competition for Lipitor in the US, as well several other patent losses.

Revenues dipped towards the end of the year with revenues falling 4 per cent in the fourth quarter to $16.75bn, pulling down full year sales that rose by just one per cent. However, the year's net income did better, increasing by 21 per cent to reach over $10bn.

Worldwide Lipitor sales were down by 25 per cent for the fourth quarter of 2011, falling from $2.63bn to $2.00bn, with US sales feeling the biggest effect, falling by around $600m. This is despite increasing efforts from Pfizer to encourage prescribers and patients to stick with the brand.

This meant primary care revenues were hit especially hard, falling by 13 per cent ($775m) for the same period, with the company also taken a hit from the loss of exclusivity in the US for its statin Caduet, which combines Lipitor with Istin (known as Norvasc in the US).

Established products revenues were also significantly down for the period, falling 9 per cent ($208m), with Pfizer facing further patent losses for Effexor XR, Protonix and Zosyn in the US.

As well as the patent losses, fourth quarter net income for 2011 was negatively affected by favourable tax returns Pfizer received in 2010, as well as charges related to litigation for hormone therapy Prempro and restructuring efforts.

Next year is expected to be harder than previously thought for Pfizer as well, and the company reduced its revenue outlook from between $62.2bn-$64.7bn to $60.5bn-$62.5bn.

There is likely to be an even more significant drop in revenues in 2012 as further patents for Lipitor expire in Europe following the end of a six month extension to May.

Earnings per share outlook for 2012 has also been reduced, with Pfizer setting expectations between $1.37-$1.52 compared to previous estimates of $1.58-$1.73.

Ian Read, Pfizer's chair and CEO, was still confident the company had enough new products to combat the loss of Lipitor and other drugs.

He said: “Prevnar/Prevenar 13 for adults, tofacitinib, Xalkori, Inlyta (axitinib) and Eliquis are well positioned to be important new product opportunities that may enhance the performance of our business. Additionally, we have a next wave of compounds that have shown promise in early and mid-stage studies, and we look forward to progressing them through the pipeline.”

1st February 2012

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