Bristol-Myers' Q4 shows growth in newer products

Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) earnings didn't reach the Wall Street goalposts, partly because of higher costs, some of them attributed to U.S. healthcare reforms. Sales of its flagship drug, Plavix, actually fell 3% to $1.67 billion for the fourth quarter. Blood-pressure remedies Avapro and Avalide slid 23%. And the drugmaker predicted a drop in 2012 earnings, thanks to generic competition.

Still, the numbers hinted at a rosier future for the U.S.-based company, known for its "string of pearls" acquisition strategy and tight focus on branded pharma. "Our delivery of several new products to patients, the ability of our productive R&D organization to build an innovative and diverse pipeline, and our continued commitment to business development gives us confidence in our future," CEO Lamberto Andreotti said in a statement.

Sales of newer drugs delivered significant gains, Bloomberg points out, with the leukemia drug Sprycel expanding 34% to $227 million and revenues from Onglyza, a diabetes pill, more than doubled to $153 million. The brand new melanoma drug Yervoy pulled in $144 million for the quarter. Abilify, the antipsychotic drug, grew 4% to $737 million.

Bristol-Myers has exclusivity on Sprycel and Onglyza till at least 2020. Its marketing contract on Abilify was extended through 2015. Plavix and Avapro go off patent this year. So, it's the newer meds on their way up this quarter, with aging drugs on the decline. As Deutsche Bank's Barbara Ryan told Bloomberg: "This is a new product story, and the product performance in the quarter was quite good."

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