Pfizer posts weak Q1 sales, stands by AZ offer

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Pfizer

Pfizer's first-quarter report had a lot of ground to cover: numbers for the company as a whole, numbers for each of the potentially independent divisions, and the progress—or lack thereof—of its proposed AstraZeneca acquisition.

President and CEO Ian Read told analysts Monday that the proposed acquisition offered AstraZeneca shareholders the opportunity “to trade up” their ownership should they be able to swap their AstraZeneca shares for those of a new AZ-Pfizer corporation. Read also said that Pfizer is “very disappointed in their unwillingness to engage in conversations,” referring to AZ's refusal to accept its most recent offer of $106 billion.

Read noted that the potential merger would be mutually beneficial, in that Pfizer's marketing presence would mean it would be able to put more power behind products than AstraZeneca would as a standalone company. He also noted the offer includes complementary pipeline assets—particularly with immuno-oncology—as well as some tax benefits, an angle which has not gone unnoticed by the Street.

As for the company as-is: sales fell 9% to $11.4 billion, from $12.4 billion for the same period the year before. The company said the continuing impact of patent losses, such as those for statin Lipitor and the more recent OAB medication Detrol LA, as well as the end of collaborations such as the Amgen-Pfizer co-promote on RA shot Enbrel, contributed to the slide.

The company said it expects this quarter's strong earners—Lyrica, which saw sales jump 17% in the US and 10% worldwide; Inlyta, whose sales rose 40% worldwide and 14% in the US; and Xalkori, which had a 66% jump in worldwide sales and a 43% bump in the US—to continue to provide power throughout the year.

Executives also said they expect RA drug Xeljanz to continue to gain traction. Geno Germano, who heads up the company's Global Innovative Pharmaceutical Business, said he expects the new label, which includes structural damage data and positive patient responses, will help the drug's sales momentum. These two components are more than surface marketing information: they were also part of Germano's response to how Pfizer is reacting to payer pricing resistance.

Sales of patent-free Lipitor plummeted 27% worldwide, and 71% compared to the same period last year, and Viagra sales flagged 19% worldwide, 2% in the US, compared to the same period last year. Both belong to the company's internal Global Established Pharmaceutical business.

John Young, who oversees the established product unit, told investors that although the business will continue to ride out loss-of-exclusivity impacts in the short-term, it is a business that will ultimately experience growth. Young said part of this growth will come from its biosimilars pipeline, which includes two late-stage entities and that the unit expects to bring a total of five to market.

Pipeline news for the innovation unit and Pfizer as a whole was that the company has a soon-ish meeting to discuss its experimental breast cancer drug palbociclib. Albert Bourla, who oversees the vaccines, oncology and consumer health division said the experimental drug could become the new standard of care, and has the potential to help advanced breast cancer patients who represent about 60% of the designated patient population. He said he envisions filing an NDA based on Phase-II Paloma I data, but that “no decision has been made.”

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