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Pfizer revenues decline in Q4 but profits surge

Lipitor patent loss continues to hit sales

Pfizer headquartersPfizer paid the inevitable toll for loss of patent protection for cholesterol blockbuster Lipitor during 2012, with a 7 per cent drop in fourth-quarter revenues to $15.1bn.

The company saw net income quadruple to $6,3bn however, thanks to the sale of its nutritional products business to food groups Nestle for around $12bn last November and despite charges relating to the ongoing spin-out of its animal health business Zoetis.

As expected Lipitor (atorvastatin) sales plunged, with the tally for the quarter down 70 per cent to $584m and almost 60 per cent $3.95bn for the full year. 

Offsetting the decline, painkiller Lyrica (pregabalin) forged ahead 16 per cent in the fourth quarter to $1.13bn - making it Pfizer's largest product - while there were also solid gains for childhood vaccine Prevnar and anti-inflammatory Celebrex (celecoxib), which grew 22 per cent to $993m and 12 per cent to $750m, respectively.

Investors reacted favourably to the results - despite the fact that Pfizer missed analysts' estimates on earnings per share (EPS) by a couple of cents - and the company's share price ended the day up more than 3 per cent. 

Part of the increase may have been driven by suggestions that Pfizer may consider splitting its branded and generic drugs businesses, which would be popular with some investors, according to a Financial Times report.

Pfizer's chief executive Ian Read stressed this would be a long-term strategy, although separation of the management of the two businesses could occur sooner.

Meanwhile, the company's efforts to replace its current products has been proceeding well, with Xeljanz (tofacitinib) for the treatment of moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis and new anticoagulant Eliquis (apixaban) - partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb - both in the roll-out phase.

Both of these have been tipped as blockbusters, and Pfizer has a crop of other candidates in mid- to late-stage testing which could drive it back into revenue growth in the coming years.

These include palbociclib for advanced breast cancer, RN316 for lowering LDL cholesterol and dacomitinib for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Read also said that licensing deals and other acquisitions will be considered to further swell the company's pipeline.

"I expect that 'bolt-on' business development will continue to play an important role in supplementing our internal efforts," he said.

30th January 2013

From: Sales

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