Intellectual Thoughts by Sanjay Panda: Pfizer Earnings Fall on Drop in Norvasc, Zoloft Sales

Pfizer Earnings Fall on Drop in Norvasc, Zoloft Sales

Pfizer Inc.'s first-quarter profit fell 18 percent and the drugmaker cut its 2007 forecast, as competition from cheaper drugs hurt two of its best-selling products, Norvasc for blood pressure and Zoloft for depression.Net income for Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, declined to $3.4 billion, or 48 cents a share, from $4.1 billion, or 56 cents, a year earlier.Revenue this year will be $1.2 billion less than Pfizer projected after an adverse court ruling accelerated generic competition to Norvasc, and sales of the inhaled insulin treatment Exubera missed targets, the company said. Zoloft also faces generic rivals. Pfizer has said it is cutting 10 percent of its workforce by 2008 to offset the lost revenue.

The impact of generic Norvasc, coupled with increased promotional spending around Exubera, are contributing to a greater decline.Pfizer shares fell 10 cents to $26.97 at 4:02 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has risen 8.1 percent in the past 12 months. The shares have lagged behind the 14-member Standard & Poor's 500 Pharmaceutical Index, which has increased 20 percent in the past 12 months.

Revenue rose 6 percent to $12.5 billion on higher drug prices and an 8 percent raise in sales of its top-selling drug, the Lipitor cholesterol pill, the company said today. Profit excluding certain costs was 68 cents a share, beating the average estimate of 17 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

U.S. regulators today also favorably reviewed Pfizer's experimental HIV/AIDS drug maraviroc, according to documents posted on the Food and Drug Administration Web site. The agency staff report said maraviroc was effective and caused no unusual deaths A panel of advisers will recommend April 24 whether the FDA should allow the drug to be marketed.
Net income this year will fall to $1.30 to $1.41 a share from $2.66, before Pfizer sold its consumer unit, the company said. Excluding certain costs, profit will be $2.08 to $2.15 a share, lower than the $2.16 average estimate of 24 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Pfizer's January forecast was for $2.18 to $2.25.
The drugmaker will close two U.S. plants and five research centers in the U.S., Japan and France.
Lipitor sales rose 8 percent to $3.4 billion, beating the $3.1 billion estimated by J.P. Morgan & Co. analyst Chris Shibutani in New York.Prescriptions for Lipitor, which makes up about 40 percent of Pfizer's profit, have declined after cheaper, generic versions of a similar pill, Merck & Co.'s Zocor, became available last June and newer drugs, including Merck and Schering-Plough Corp.'s Vytorin and Zetia, have been gaining popularity.

Pfizer increased sales by raising the price 4 percent to 6 percent and offering fewer discounts, said Ian Read, Pfizer vice president of worldwide pharmaceuticals.Lipitor itself may lose patent protection as early as 2010 in the U.S. Pfizer is appealing a decision by a Canadian court to throw out its Lipitor patent. Lipitor had $800 million to $900 million in 2006 sales in Canada.
Sales of the two-year-old pain medicine Lyrica more than doubled to $395 million and sales of the smoking-cessation drug Chantix, approved in the U।S. in May, were $162 million.


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