Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drug maker, Wednesday posted a 21% rise in fourth-quarter operating earnings on stellar pharmaceutical sales, including cholesterol-fighter Lipitor.
Pfizer reported profit of $2.11 billion, or 34 cents a share, before unusual items--in line with forecasts. Pfizer, with a stable of prescription drugs that also includes impotence pill Viagra, is one of the few large drug makers not yet hit by patent expirations on key products.
Net income for the quarter increased 38% to nearly $1.96 billion, or 30 cents a share, from $1.42 billion, or 23 cents, a year earlier.
On a net basis, Pfizer faced an easier comparison because of lower merger-related costs in the quarter than in the year-ago period.
Revenue jumped 12% to $9.03 billion.
"Pfizer's results look good and are a tribute to the company's marketing strength. It has the biggest sales force out there and almost all its major products did better than we expected," said Prudential Securities analyst Tim Anderson.
Sales of Lipitor rose 31% to $1.88 billion for the fourth quarter and reached $6.4 billion for the year. Epilepsy treatment Neurontin had sales increases of 34% to $498 million during the quarter, while antidepressant Zoloft generated quarterly sales of $646 million, up 10%.
Norvasc, a treatment for high blood pressure, saw sales grow 4% to $962 million. Another key medicine, antibiotic Zithromax, rose 7% to $560 million.
In addition to robust sales of medicines already on the market, the company's pipeline of experimental drugs is regarded as one of the strongest in the pharmaceuticals industry, featuring an inhaled form of insulin for diabetes patients and a new anti-epilepsy drug.
Other major drug makers, such as Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., have been hit by patent expirations on key drugs, dragging down sales as those drugs face generic competition.
The company's consumer businesses, which include Listerine mouthwash, saw sales rise 5% to $1.4 billion. Revenue from its animal health unit rose 3% to $301 million.
Pfizer shares rose $1 to close at $41.80 on the New York Stock Exchange.