Bobbing around like buoys in a sea of swine-flu news are two Big Pharma earnings reports: Pfizer and its better-than-expected first-quarter profits and Bristol-Myers Squibb's 3.4 percent hike in net income. Above the bottom line, however, the reports were choppier: Up and down, rather than one or the other.
In Pfizer's case, street-beating earnings belie a downdraft in revenues from top selling Lipitor (down 13 percent to $2.72 billion) and Chantix (down 36 percent to $177 million). The cholesterol fighter suffered from competition from AstraZeneca's Crestor--which has chalked up several clinical-trial victories of late--and from cheap generic versions of Merck's Zocor. Chantix, the stop-smoking drug, has been faltering because of safety concerns. The FDA has taken hundreds of adverse-event reports, many centered on psychiatric side effects, including suicidal thoughts.
Pfizer's numbers? Profits down 2 percent to $2.73 billion or 40 cents per share. Revenues down 8 percent to $10.87 billion, about $180 billion short of analyst expectations. The company's saving grace was cost cuts, which yielded operating expenses $1 billion lower than analysts had expected.
Bristol-Myers' net of $921 millon came in spite of restructuring charges and a litigation-settlement charge. Excluding items, EPS came in at 48 cents, barely beating analyst estimates of 47 cents per share. Sales rose 2.5 percent to $5.02 billion, but without the stronger dollar, they would have come in at 8 percent higher. Bristol's big winners during the quarter were the clot-busting Plavix, which gained 9.7 percent to $1.44 billion, and the atypical antipsychotic Abilify, which posted a 30 percent leap in sales.