Sales fuel earnings growth at Pfizer, Lilly, Wyeth, Novartis, Schering-Plough

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Rises in prescription drug sales contributed to robust third-quarter earnings growth posted by Pfizer, Lilly, Wyeth, Novartis and Schering-Plough. Pfizer’s global prescription drug sales rose 10% in the third-quarter to $12.3 billion. Global sales of Lipitor defied generic Zocor, rising 15% in the third-quarter to $3.3 billion Sales of Lyrica and Celebrex helped make up for some of the revenue lost to new generic competition to antibiotic Zithromax and antidepressant Zoloft, Pfizer said. Lilly’s third-quarter global sales were up 7% to $3.9 billion in the third-quarter, driven by Cymbalta and Zyprexa, the company said. Global sales of Cymbalta surged 91% to $348 million, a benefit of Lilly’s sales force reorganization, analysts said, while Zyprexa rose 5% to $1.1 billion, the first increase in six quarters. Lilly unveiled plans last week to purchase ICOS, co-marketer of its erectile dysfunction drug Cialis. Global sales of Cialis increased 26% to $246 million in the third-quarter. Wyeth said third-quarter sales of its Prevnar pneumococcus vaccine rose 30% to $510 million. Global sales of Wyeth’s top-selling product, Effexor, rose 7% to $924 million despite the introduction of generic Zoloft. Novartis said third-quarter global sales increased 13% to $9.5 billion, boosted by sales of its heart drug Diovan. Revenue from Diovan was at $1.1 billion for the third-quarter of 2006, compared to $925 million in the year-ago period, Novartis said. Merck's fortunes may be tied in part to Schering-Plough through the companies' cholesterol joint venture, but the two firms posted divergent earnings. Merck’s third-quarter profit fell 34% partly due to Zocor going off patent. Zocor sales dipped 65% to $371 million from $1 billion in the same period last year. Cholesterol drugs Vytorin and Zetia did well, with Vytorin sales rising 92% to $526.6 million and Zetia sales increasing 41% to $501.9 million. Other bright spots were sales of allergy medication Singulair, which grew 25% to $868 million and Gardasil, which saw $70 million in sales in its debut quarter. Another reason for Merck's posted loss: legal costs associated with nearly 24,000 Vioxx lawsuits. Still, Wall Street thinks Merck can rise to these challenges; its stock finished up 2.5%. Schering-Plough, meanwhile, saw an earnings boost thanks largely to its cholesterol partnership with Merck. Global sales of Schering-Plough’s Remicade were up 34% to $317 million. Global Nasonex sales rose 30% to $221 million, with U.S. sales climbing 41% to $153 million.

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