Cancer drugs lift Pfizer in third quarter

pharmafile | October 30, 2013 | News story | Sales and Marketing Lipitor, Lyrica, Pfizer, Q3, Xalkori 

Pfizer saw a drop in revenue for the third quarter but the future looks bright as new products begin to take centre-stage.

The US giant began losing patents on its statin Lipitor from 2011 which decimated the sales of the pill that brought in $13 billion at its peak.

Sales of the drug unsurprisingly fell 29% to just $533 million in the third quarter, given the generic competition in most mature markets.

In fact falling Lipitor revenue and other generic threats saw global company sales fall 2% to $12.64 billion, although sales would have been flat if not for the stronger dollar, which lowers the value of sales outside the US.

This is compared to its first quarter results that saw a fall of 9% in sales, or $1.4 billion.

But overall Pfizer seems to have struggled only briefly with the loss of Lipitor as it looks to new areas to shore up growth. It stated its intentions last year to become bigger in oncology and this is starting to pay off, as sales of its cancer drugs jumped 24% to $407 million.

This was largely driven by new products including lung cancer drug Xalkori that was launched in 2011, Inlyta for kidney cancer that was approved last year and finally Bosulif for chronic myelogenous leukaemia, which gained the FDA nod earlier this year.

Xalkori sales almost doubled to $73 million in the third quarter, while Inlyta sales nearly tripled to $83 million. A true reflection of Bosulif’s sales will become apparent from next year.

Pfizer is counting on all of these to become lucrative products and is developing other cancer medicines with potentially bigger sales potential.

This includes an experimental treatment for advanced breast cancer called palbociclib, which industry analysts consider a potential blockbuster.

In fact palbociclib received the special ‘Breakthrough Therapy’ designation from the FDA for the potential treatment of specific patients with the disease earlier this year.

Meanwhile, a Phase III study of palbociclib in combination with letrozole for first line treatment of post-menopausal women with ER+/HER2- advanced breast cancer began enrolling patients in February.

Solid sales

Outside of oncology sales of Pfizer’s now biggest product, the pain drug Lyrica, rose 10% to $1.14 billion.

Prevnar, a vaccine against pneumococcal bacteria, grew by a more modest 1% to $959 million, but this still represents a turnaround from the 3% decline posted in the second quarter.

The firm has also worked hard to cut costs over the last year and lower its tax rate, two things that have also positively impacted the company this quarter.

“I like the quarter; it was better than we expected, mainly from cost cutting and a lower tax rate,” Herman Saftlas, an analyst with S&P Capital, told Reuters. The effective tax rate fell 0.4% to 27.6% in the quarter.

Ian Read, chairman and chief executive of Pfizer, said: “Overall, I am very pleased with our continued and steady progress, on many fronts, to drive greater value for our shareholders.

“We continue to generate solid financial results on an operational basis, despite the impact of product losses of exclusivity and the ongoing expiration of the Spiriva collaboration in certain countries as well as the challenging operating environment.”

Ben Adams

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