Pfizer profits beat, but drug sales drop

Cost cuts helped Pfizer post higher-than-expected profits; however, revenue fell short, hit by a decline in prescription drug sales. Overall, pharma sales dropped by 2 percent. And in a taste of things to come, top-selling Lipitor dropped by 13 percent to $2.39 billion, as generic competition cropped up in several overseas markets.

Pfizer posted earnings of $2.2 billion on overall sales of $16.5 billion. Sales in animal health grew by 16 percent to $982 million, while consumer healthcare products grew by 12 percent to $745 million. Nutritionals also grew by 3 percent to $470 million. As Reuters points out, it's these businesses CEO Ian Read (photo) is considering selling to focus on the core prescription drugs business. Read said he's also considering selling off the established products unit, which focuses on off-patent drugs.

Lipitor sales will, of course, continue to decline when it loses patent protection in the U.S. later this year. Read told the Wall Street Journal that growth in sales of Prevnar and its follow-up product Prevnar 13 will help make up the difference; this quarter the products sold a combined $996 million. The pain pill Lyrica also grew in the quarter by 14 percent to $826 million.

If Read does decide to offload those divisions, then it will be up to Prevnar, Lyrica and their fellows to make up the Lipitor deficit, without help from vet drugs or consumer products. Analysts still seem jazzed by the possibility despite the drop in pharma sales this quarter. "This CEO is going to make stuff happen," CLSA analyst David Maris told Bloomberg. "The market is focused on that more than anything."

- see the Bloomberg story
- get more from Reuters

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