Monday, April 2, 2007

Earnings Season & Pfizer's Prospects

Earnings season is almost upon us. I think most of big pharma will continue to meet estimates. Some like Merck will probably beat the street thanks to new launches like Januvia & Gardasil. Lilly may be another name that beats the street due to strong sales of Byetta & Cialis capturing more marketshare from Viagra & Levitra. In the case of Lilly, the Zyprexa numbers will be interesting to watch given the recent issues around its metabolic effects.

One big name that will be struggling is Pfizer. I don't have access to fancy data tools like IMS but I hear from friends who do that Lipitor has lost a lot of marketshare to Simvastatin & Vytorin (perhaps the BrandweekNRx guys will be kind enough to post some NRx numbers for both Lipitor & Zyprexa). Based on all the chatter on CafePharma, it looks like Pfizer's sales force is a bit too disoriented/demoralized at this point - given all the changes that new CEO Jeff Kindler has unleashed. Expect numbers for other Pfizer brands like Celebrex, Lyrica & Geodon to miss promises. There was also the earlier than expected patent loss for Norvasc. Pfizer's Chantix seems to be the one drug that seems to have decent growth prospects based on some recent media articles I've read....but Chantix alone is not enough for a company the size of Pfizer.

Pfizer's Lipitor prospects seem to be the principal driver of its poor stock performance these days. I heard the Lipitor pitch made by Ian Read (President of Pharma Ops) during their January analyst meeting and have to say that it was quite a weak defense. His basic argument seems to be that Lipitor has proven outcomes data where as Vytorin (esp the Zetia component) & Crestor do not. This may be true but most people know that products like Vytorin are newer products and while the outcomes data will take time to emerge, they have every reason to expect them to be as good or better than Lipitor given Vytorin's LDL lowering claims. He did not go after Crestor's safety record. As to the Simvastatin threat he alluded to some contracting strategy mumbo jumbo...though CafePharma has many reps complaining about Lipitor's managed care status.

It is time for Pfizer brass to acknowledge the reality that Lipitor can not be defended as is. One good thing they have done is to launch Caduet (Lipitor Norvasc combo). How about doing a deal with Novartis and developing a Lipitor Diovan combo? What about a Lipitor Niacin combo with Abbott (Abbott is already building a Crestor Tricor combo). These combo molecules may be the way to stop the bleeding a bit till some of Pfizer's new pipeline drugs kick in.

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