It's official. The third quarter of 2010 is pharma's period of respectable profits on weak sales. Pfizer's ($PFE) earnings, released today, confirm that trend. The drugmaker posted profits of $866 million, or 11 cents per share--54 cents, excluding charges--fueled by a companywide cost-cutting drive. But despite a Wyeth-merger-related 39 percent increase in sales, that $16.17 billion ran far behind Wall Street's forecast of $16.68 billion.
And like its Big Pharma brethren, Pfizer suffered from increased generic competition for key products. Namely Lipitor; new generics in Canada and Spain contributed to an 11 percent drop in sales to $2.53 billion.
Costs related to its megamerger with Wyeth also weighed on the company's profits, just as they did at Merck--which posted the decent profits/soft sales combination, too. Other drugmakers in that club include Abbott, whose earnings topped analyst forecasts while sales failed to measure up. Then there's Eli Lilly, which delivered a 38 percent profit increase--largely on cost-cutting--while sales missed expectations. And GlaxoSmithKline, too; its not-up-to-par sales suffered from new competition for the herpes drug Valtrex.