Company news from the 01/30/07 news brief

Merck’s fourth-quarter profit fell 58% due to aquisitoin-related charges and the loss of market exclusivity for cholesterol drug Zocor, The Wall Street Journal reported today. Boosted by double-digit gains in five drugs beyond its cholesterol joint venture, Schering-Plough posted a 62% increase in fourth-quarter profit. The company recorded net income of $204 million, or 12 cents a share, up from $126 million, or seven cents a share, a year earlier. Sales rose 14% to $2.65 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $2.5 billion. Figures show Schering-Plough is performing well across several businesses. Cholesterol drugs Vytorin and Zetia, jointly marketed with Merck, jumped 47% to $1.11 billion. Equity income from the venture rose 50% to $403 million from $268 million. Sales of arthritis drug Remicade, which Schering-Plough markets ex-US, increased 34% to $337 million. Worldwide sales of allergy drug rose Nasonex rose 37% to $253 million, with US sales up 48%. Sales of Temodar, a treatment for brain tumors, climbed 18% to $189 million, while sales of allergy treatment Clarinex rose 18% to $164 million. Sales of heart medication Integrilin increased 20% to $85 million. Sales of the Peg-Intron hepatitis C product slid 3% to $208 million due primarily to a drop in sales in Japan. Under third-year Chief Executive Fred Hassan, Schering-Plough has upped R&D spending 33% to $631 million, from $474 million a year ago. But analysts say Hassan will face increasing pressure to diversify the revenue base with new products and possibly an acquisition. Astellas Pharma won an argument with Pfizer that its agreement to market Lipitor in Japan runs until July 2016. Astellas had filed a declaratory judgment action against Pfizer last November in Tokyo District Court, but the firms settled the matter. Pfizer had argued that Astellas’ Lipitor contract only ran until 2011. Hurt by generic exposure to its best-selling drug and a steep charge taken for legal fees, Bristol-Myers Squibb recorded a loss for the fourth quarter. The $134-million slide, as compared with the year-ago period, came on overall revenue for the quarter of $4.2 billion, compared to $5.02 billion the previous year. Analysts had expected revenue of $4.18 billion for the quarter. Sales of BMS’s Plavix blood thinner fell 53% to $496 million from $1.06 billion. That follows efforts by the firm to offset the impact of generic Plavix, which flooded the market for a brief period starting last August. BMS expanded a DTC ad campaign for the drug late last year. And Anthony Hooper, president of BMS US pharmaceuticals unit, told MM&M in January that reps were being incentivized for prescription growth, branded or not, just to maintain top-line growth until Plavix is the only brand left to be dispensed. As some of the generic version remains on the market, BMS said the copycat Plavix will continue to affect its performance but that it is regaining market share as that generic inventory runs out. The patent trial over Plavix, with generic firm Apotex, began in New York City this week. The patent expiry of cholesterol-lowering drug Pravachol in April also hurt revenue, with sales dropping 75% to $146 million. Sales of AIDS drug Reyataz climbed 3% to $255 million, while sales from anti-psychotic Abilify grew 62% to $362 million. The firm also took a $353 million charge for reserves to pay $499 million to settle federal investigations into whether it played a role in a pricing scheme that led insurers and government agencies to overpay for drugs. BMS singed an agreement in principle with the Justice Department and the US Attorney in Massachusetts to pay the settlement and avoid civil and criminal charges late last year. Ranbaxy Laboratories said the Federal Court of Canada granted it a favorable decision in a case against Pfizer, finding one of Pfizer’s Canadian atorvastatin patents invalid. The decision came after the court denied a Pfizer request to block approval for a generic version of Lipitor, the world’s best-selling drug. Pfizer said it will appeal. The ruling involves a patent covering the calcium salt of atorvastatin, the active ingredient in Lipitor, which expires in July 2010, Pfizer said. The ruling on the calcium salt patent has no immediate commercial impact, Pfizer said, because Ranbaxy is subject to other pending patent litigation with Pfizer. Honorable Justice von Finckenstein dismissed Pfizer’s move because the patent did not correctly and fully describe the invention. The judge upheld another Pfizer patent. In other news, Astellas Pharma won an argument with Pfizer that its agreement to market Lipitor in Japan runs until July 2016. Astellas had filed a declaratory judgment action against Pfizer last November in Tokyo District Court. Pfizer had argued that Astellas’ Liptor contract only ran until 2011.