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Pfizer Profit Falls By Half Due To Generic Lipitor

CEO Ian Read said in a statement that patent losses, including that of Lipitor, cost the company $5 billion throughout 2011.

NEW YORK (AP) — Pfizer Inc. said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter profit fell by half due to one-time charges and a drop in U.S. revenue, which was hurt by blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor losing patent protection.

The drugmaker still beat Wall Street expectations, but it significantly trimmed its full-year forecast for both earnings per share and revenue. The company blamed recent changes in foreign exchange rates, as the strengthening of the dollar against the euro and other currencies reduces the value of foreign sales.

The maker of Viagra said net income was $1.44 billion, or 19 cents per share, down from $2.89 billion, or 36 cents per share, a year earlier.

Adjusted income was $3.86 billion, or 50 cents a share, down from $3.74 billion, or 47 cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue was $16.7 billion, down from $17.4 billion in 2010's fourth quarter. Favorable currency exchange rates boosted sales by 1 percent.

Earnings and revenue topped analysts' expectations of 47 cents per share on revenue of $16.61 billion. They typically exclude one-time items.

The company forecast 2012 earnings per share of $2.20 to $2.30, excluding one-time items, down a nickel from its last forecast. It also forecast revenue of $60.5 billion to $62.5 billion, down $1.7 billion from the last forecast.

In premarket trading, Pfizer shares rose 17 cents to $21.75.

CEO Ian Read said in a statement that patent losses cost the company $5 billion throughout 2011; that included a $1.3 billion hit in the fourth quarter.

While Pfizer now has generic competition to several former blockbusters, the key hit was to Lipitor, whose U.S. patent expiration on Nov. 30 was the most closely watched event in the industry last year. With just a month left in the quarter after that, Lipitor sales still fell 42 percent in the U.S. and 24 percent overall, to a total of $2 billion worldwide in the fourth quarter.

The world's top-selling drug ever, Lipitor brought Pfizer $10.7 billion in 2010, most of that from the U.S. The world's biggest drugmaker fought to retain much of that money for the time being with an unprecedented strategy, continuing consumer ads for the popular pill and offering patients and insurers big discounts to stay on brand-name Lipitor. It also jointly marketed an authorized generic version with Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Given that U.S. insurers had been set to immediately switch their patients on Lipitor to cheaper generics — the authorized one or a second version sold by India's Ranbaxy Laboratories — the sales plunge would have been worse without those efforts.

Revenue for all five of Pfizer's prescription-drug segments fell by at least 4 percent, with primary care medicines, the segment that includes Lipitor, down by 8 percent to $5.41 billion.

The biggest increases came in smaller businesses are Pfizer has been considering selling. Animal health was up 13 percent at $1.11 billion nutrition was up 22 percent at $598 million. Consumer health, which includes brands such as Centrum vitamins and Chapstick, was up 8 percent at $817 million.

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