As Lipitor gets more rivals, Lyrica studies fall short

Pfizer's ($PFE) mission to expand Lyrica use just hit a couple of roadblocks. The company said the drug fell short at relieving certain types of nerve pain in HIV patients and diabetics, in two separate studies. The study data came along with a reminder of Lipitor's decline: The cholesterol drug officially lost patent protection in the U.K. over the weekend.

Pfizer stopped a late-stage study of patients with HIV-related neuropathy because of Lyrica's performance. Interim data showed that Lyrica relieved their pain no better than placebo, the company announced. In another late-stage study, Lyrica was tested in patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. The drug missed its primary endpoint in this study, Pfizer said.

The drug is already approved to treat other diabetic nerve pain, shingles-related pain and fibromyalgia. The company had hoped to expand those uses further with this latest research. Still, Lyrica is one of Pfizer's top-selling drugs, and it continues to grow. The drug brought in $955 million in first-quarter revenue, a 16% year-over-year increase. Sales in Japan were particularly strong, the company said; in fact, overall international sales of the drug grew faster than U.S. sales.

Lyrica's first-quarter sales were outclassed by only one other Pfizer drug: Lipitor, which hung onto $1.4 billion. Its biggest drop was in the U.S., where sales fell 42%. The debut of Lipitor generics in the U.K. is just another blow.

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