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Pfizer Profit Soars but Still Falls Short

January 20, 2005|From Bloomberg News

Pfizer Inc., the world's largest drug maker, said Wednesday that fourth-quarter earnings rose more than fourfold to $2.83 billion as expenses fell and sales of the company's Lipitor cholesterol treatment surged.

But the results fell short of analysts' estimates.

Net income climbed to 38 cents a share and revenue rose 7% to $14.9 billion, with three percentage points of the increase attributable to a weaker dollar, Pfizer said. Profit was $602 million, or 8 cents, a year earlier, when litigation and merger-related expenses reduced results.

Revenue from two of Pfizer's biggest drugs, Lipitor and the Celebrex painkiller, jumped as much as 24% as the company took market share from rivals such as Merck & Co. The gains may slow in the wake of a study that linked Celebrex to heart attacks and caused a year-end drop in prescriptions, and as generic competition damps demand for drugs such as the Neurontin epilepsy pill.

Excluding $1.56 billion in expenses, some of which was related to the 2003 purchase of Pharmacia Corp., Pfizer's profit was 58 cents a share. That compares with 53 cents a year earlier and the 59-cent average estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Pfizer said it would give 2005 forecasts at an April 5 analyst meeting. The company said Wednesday that patent expirations would temper short-term revenue and profit growth.

Shares of Pfizer fell 42 cents, or 1.7%, to $24.88 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Sales of Lipitor, the world's bestselling drug, jumped 23% to $3.26 billion in the fourth quarter. Full-year sales increased 18% to $10.9 billion.

Lipitor has about 40% of the worldwide cholesterol market and more than 42% of the U.S. market in total prescriptions, Pfizer said Wednesday.

Celebrex sales rose 24% to $1 billion in the quarter, boosted by Merck's withdrawal of Vioxx from the market Sept. 30 because of its link to heart attacks and strokes. Pfizer's disclosure Dec. 17 that high doses of Celebrex also increased heart risks in a study sent prescriptions falling about 50%, according to data from NDCHealth Corp.

The Food and Drug Administration has urged doctors to limit prescriptions of Celebrex and Bextra, another Pfizer painkiller that inhibits the Cox-2 enzyme and has been linked to heart risks, until regulators weigh the safety of the drugs. Sales of Bextra soared 57% to $417 million in the quarter.

Sales of the male-impotence drug Viagra slipped 8% to $469 million because of competition from Cialis by Eli Lilly & Co. and Icos Corp. and Levitra by Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline.

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