Lipitor copy powers a surge in Ranbaxy sales, profits

What a difference generic Lipitor can make. Ranbaxy Laboratories' first-quarter earnings soared on its launch of the cholesterol drug copycat, to 12.47 billion rupees--$234.3 million--from 3.04 billion rupees last year. The numbers also beat analyst expectations by a wide margin.

The driver was Ranbaxy's U.S. sales, which doubled during the period, to 20.93 billion rupees ($375 million). It's the company's first full quarter on the market with generic Lipitor, and Ranbaxy also enjoyed some major currency gains as the rupee rose against the dollar. Total revenues amounted to almost 40 billion rupees, or $686.5 million.

It's quite a turnaround for Ranbaxy, which has been embroiled in manufacturing problems since 2008, when FDA barred 30 products from the U.S. As the manufacturing allegations rolled in, so did doubt that the company could pull off a Lipitor-knockoff launch. Rival genericsmaker Mylan ($MYL) went so far as to sue FDA to negate Ranbaxy's 180-day exclusivity period.

Ranbaxy finally came to an agreement with the agency late last year, including a consent decree holding certain products off the U.S. market till two Indian plants met FDA standards. Then, at the last minute, the company won FDA approval for its version of Pfizer's ($PFE) megablockbuster. So far, Ranbaxy's version has captured 47% of that market.

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