Pfizer sales drop 16%, falling short of expectations

Once again, Lipitor's patent loss gave Pfizer's ($PFE) quarterly results a big wallop. The cholesterol fighter's sales plummeted by 71% year over year, to $749 million. That drop, if a bit bigger than anticipated, was expected; it's been expected for years. So, the company's 16% drop in sales, to about $14 billion, is no wake-up call.

What is potentially worrisome, however, is the 14% drop in sales of Prevnar 13, also sold under the Prevenar 13 brand, and the 17% decline in its sister product, Prevnar 7. The pneumococcal vaccine is among Pfizer's top sellers, and one of its key post-patent-cliff hopes. As the company noted in its earnings release, the declines in the U.S. and Europe stemmed from a "catch-up" dosing campaign last year.

Also, Prevnar 13 use in adults--one of the company's strategies for expanding the franchise--"remains minimal at this time," Pfizer noted. The shot won FDA approval for patients 50 years and older at the end of last year, and WHO has prequalified the product for adults, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to recommend it for routine use. The company has estimated that expanding into the adult population could add $1.5 billion to sales.

But Prevnar also faltered in emerging markets, along with products across the board. As Reuters reports, emerging markets sales slipped by 2% to $2.39 billion, after growing by 8% last quarter.

Bright spots? Lyrica, which grew 8% to $1 billion, and Celebrex and Viagra, which each notched up 5% increases, to $676 million and $517 million, respectively. And Pfizer can also take comfort in the fact that it's not alone in reporting a sales decline. "Like many others in the third quarter, Pfizer was weak at the revenue line, missing (forecasts) by 5 percent," Jefferies analyst Jeffrey Holford pointed out. And an EPS of 53 cents did match estimates.

- see the Pfizer release
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