Statin rivals eat into Pfizer profit, while Abbott surges on lipid drugs

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The second-quarter earnings parade today told a story of two companies, whose lipid franchises are heading in divergent directions.

Pfizer said its profit fell 48% in the second quarter as prescriptions for the best-selling cholesterol drug Lipitor slowed due to generic competition and payer pressure.

“Lipitor, our most prescribed product, did not meet our expectations for the quarter,” Jeffrey Kindler, Pfizer chairman and CEO, said in a statement this morning.

Globally, Lipitor sales declined 13%, compared to the same quarter last year, but the fall was steepest in the US, where sales slid by 25% to $2.7 billion. Total Pfizer sales fell 5.6% to $11.1 billion.

In the statement, Kindler cited changes in US wholesaler inventories, as well as a lower the rate of prescribing, as reasons for the Lipitor sales drop. In addition, Pfizer had to offer increased rebates to wholesalers and pharmacy benefit managers.

Among the biggest factors weighing on Pfizer’s prized statin was stiffer competition from branded and generic products, including generic simvastatin and Merck-Schering-Plough’s Vytorin and Zetia and AstraZeneca’s Crestor.

Pfizer is trying to drive Lipitor revenue by upping promotion, including its TV, radio and print campaign featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik launched earlier this year, and approving new indications. Nevertheless, it projected a decline of as much as 5% in Lipitor revenue this year compared with 2006.

Also leading to the company’s decline in net income to $1.27 billion were the loss of US patent exclusivity for Zoloft and Norvasc, as well as R&D payments made to Bristol-Myers Squibb in connection with the two firms’ collaboration to develop and commercialize blood-thinner apixaban.

Bright spots included a 49% increase in sales of diabetic nerve-pain drug Lyrica, which recently won an additional approval for treating fibromyalgia, and a new product, antismoking therapy Chantix.

In contrast, Abbott Labs’ lipid franchise helped the company swing to a second-quarter profit. US sales of TriCor, which reduces levels of triglycerides, were up 21% to $302 million. And Niaspan, Abbott’s drug for raising HDL cholesterol which it acquired last year when it bought Kos, posted sales of $170 million, putting it on pace to reach about $650 million in sales this year, the firm said.

The suburban Chicago company said sales rose 16% to $6.37 billion, while earnings came in at $989 million, up from $612 million during the same quarter last year.

Other bright spots for Abbott included US sales of arthritis treatment Humira (up 44% to $406 million), US sales of epilepsy/bipolar treatment Depakote (up 28% to $382 million) and US sales of HIV treatment Kaletra (up 12% to $132 million).

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