Pfizer banking on new cancer drugs

The growing use of two relatively new oncology products in Pfizer Inc.'s pipeline helped the drug giant turn in a respectable third-quarter performance, according to a financial report released Tuesday.

The products, Xalkori and Inlyta, were both discovered at Pfizer laboratories in La Jolla, Calif., and developed in Groton. Sales of Inlyta in the third quarter nearly tripled from a year ago, while Xalkori saw a near doubling of revenue, sending Pfizer's oncology unit to a 26 percent operational gain during the period.

While Pfizer's profits fell 19 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period a year ago, they beat Wall Street estimates.

Pfizer has been struggling with the loss to generic competition of some of its key products, including the cholesterol pill Lipitor.

Lipitor sales in the United States were off in the quarter nearly 60 percent from a year ago. But sales gains in other areas, such as pain drugs Lyrica (up 10 percent), and Celebrex (up 11 percent) helped offset weaknesses in established products.

"I am very pleased with our continued and steady progress," said Pfizer chief executive Ian Read in a statement. "We continue to generate solid financial results on an operational basis."

The industry blog FiercePharma said Pfizer's revenue struggles are par for the course among large pharmaceutical companies that have been shedding thousands of jobs over the past few years.

"Patent losses linger, with hundreds of millions lost to generic competition old and new," according to the blog. "But Pfizer had growth in emerging markets and cancer sales to help stanch the flow."

Pfizer earned $2.59 billion in the July-through-September period, versus $3.21 billion for the same quarter last year.

Excluding one-time occurrences, Pfizer's earnings were 58 cents a share in the quarter, 2 cents better than the consensus Wall Street estimate and 8 cents better than a year ago. The earnings report gave rise to a rally in Pfizer stock Tuesday, sending the share price up 51 cents to $31.25.

At the same time, the company narrowed the range of its expected full-year earnings to $2.15 to $2.20 a share, virtually unchanged from its previous estimates. It also said research-and-development spending would be reduced about $1 billion from last year - to a range of $6.3 billion to $6.6 billion.

"For the first nine months of 2013, our financial performance has been in line with our expectations," Frank D'Amelio, Pfizer's chief financial officer, said in a statement.

Pfizer's performance so far this year has allowed the company to repurchased $13.1 billion worth of shares. It also expects to hand out $6.5 billion in dividends this year.

While Pfizer continues to cut costs, third-quarter numbers show the company's revenues continuing a substantial but manageable post-Lipitor decline.

Revenues were down 2 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period last year, and so far this year are down 7 percent compared with the first three quarters of last year.

In an effort to boost revenues, Pfizer announced Tuesday that it is hoping to move its experimental osteoarthritis drug tanezumab back on the company's drug-pipeline front burner by collaborating on new clinical studies with pharmaceutical powerhouse Eli Lilly & Co.

The announcement, coming three years after studies on tanezumab were canceled because patients were winding up with surprisingly frequent joint problems, said the two companies would share the cost of new clinical trials as well as potential profits.

Pfizer, whose local scientists set up and analyzed tanezumab's clinical trials, has been hoping to convince the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the importance of further studies, pointing to a New England Journal of Medicine article in which researchers speculated that patients' high rate of joint replacements might have been because the drug worked too well, leading them to be too active.

Pfizer Q3   
Earnings per share$0.58$0.50+16%
Source: Pfizer Inc.   


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