Top pharma companies post sluggish first quarter sales results

Several of the pharmaceutical industry’s top companies posted sluggish sales results for the first quarter of 2006. Pfizer’s sales slumped in the first quarter, with its top-seller Lipitor inching up just 1% to $3 billion. However, the world’s largest pharma company saw a significant jump in net income—to $4.1 billion from $301 million a year earlier, due to cost-cutting efforts. “We will continue to manage the loss of exclusivity on some of our major products with an aggressive strategy that responds to our competitive challenges and positions Pfizer for renewed growth,” said Pfizer CEO Hank McKinnell in a statement. Merck reported a jump of only 1% in overall sales. Merck’s respiratory drug Singulair was its only blockbuster to post sales growth—9%—in the first quarter. Sales of Merck and Schering- Plough’s joint-venture cholesterol drug Vytorin more than doubled to $371 million. Schering-Plough said on Thursday that its overall global sales, including sales of Vytorin, increased 12% to $2.9 billion in the first quarter. Eli Lilly said its global sales rose 6% to $3.7 billion fueled by growth of its depression/diabetic neuropathic pain drug Cymbalta. Abbott Laboratories saw its first-quarter sales erode 23% to $1.4 billion due to generic competition. Sales of antibiotic Biaxin and Synthroid, a drug to combat hypothyroidism, were particularly weak.