New York: Pfizer Inc. reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings as improved profit margins and strong sales of its Lyrica nerve-pain drug partly offset plunging demand for its Lipitor cholesterol fighter, now facing cheaper generic rivals.
The global drugmaker said sales of Lipitor, which lost patent protection in November, fell 42% to $1.4 billion.
“The story here is that Pfizer is dealing with its Lipitor patent loss surprisingly well,” said Morningstar analyst Damien Conover. “When you lose the biggest medicine in the world and your earnings per share only fall 3%, that’s a lot better than people expected a few years ago. Pfizer is mitigating the patent loss by cutting costs and bringing in good new drugs.”
Shares of Pfizer were down 0.7% at $22.76 in early trading.
Pfizer earned $1.79 billion, or 24 cents per share, in the first quarter. That compared with $2.2 billion, or 28 cents per share, a year earlier, when results suffered because of a litigation charge and costs of revamping research operations. Excluding special charges to boost productivity and address legal matters, Pfizer earned 58 cents per share, from 60 cents a year ago. Analysts on average had expected 56 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Citibank analyst Jon Boris said in a research note that US pharmaceuticals sales of $5.19 billion were “solid,” coming in about $290 million above his forecast. Overseas pharmaceuticals sales of $7.88 billion, down 1% from a year ago, were $230 million below his expectations.
Pfizer, whose research laboratories have produced few big-selling drugs in the past decade, is now eagerly awaiting US approvals of two potential blockbuster treatments: blood clot preventer Eliquis and tofacitinib to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
In the meantime, it is squeezing good growth out of older medicines, including Lyrica, whose sales jumped 16% to $955 million in the quarter, fuelled by growing demand in Japan.