Schering-Plough is looking to its cholesterol treatments Vytorin and Zetia to help boost earnings for the next several years as the drug maker develops new products, CEO Fred Hassan said.
“It’s the fastest-growing part of the profit flow going forward, and we’ve said that it will be for several years,” Hassan said in an interview with Bloomberg.com.
Vytorin, the combination of Schering-Plough’s Zetia with Merck’s Zocor, will face competition this year from cheaper generic copies of Zocor and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Pravachol.
Hassan said it isn’t clear how much generic Zocor may affect sales of Vytorin and Zetia.
Vytorin and Zetia also compete with Pfizer blockbuster cholesterol treatment Lipitor, the world's best-selling drug.
Lipitor sales rose 3% in the fourth quarter to more than $3 billion, Pfizer said Jan. 19. Fourth-quarter sales of Zocor declined 18% to $1.1 billion, Merck said yesterday.
Schering-Plough’s share of revenue from cholesterol drugs under the Merck joint venture rose to $378 million in the past three months, from $200 million a year earlier, the company said.
Hassan, who joined Schering-Plough in 2003, returned the company to profitability in 2005, after deficits caused by the 2002 loss of patent protection for the Claritin allergy pill. Sales at Schering-Plough have climbed five quarters in a row.
“Now we have the financial headroom to look at possible acquisitions,” Hassan said. “It’s more that kind of an attitude than playing defense.”