US drug giant Pfizer has seen its earnings and revenues fall for the first quarter as the loss of patent protection for the blood pressure drug Norvasc and the antihistamine Zyrtec started to hit home.

The company posted a net income decline of 18% to $2.78 billion while revenues were down 5% to $11.85 billion. Pharmaceutical sales fell 6% to $10.90 billion and this was despite a favourable currency impact of 4% or $520 million.

Pfizer’s blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor (atorvastatin) turned in a 7% drop in sales to $3.14 billion over 2006, as it continues to grapple for market share with other therapies such as Merck & Co rival statin Zocor (simvastatin), while Norvasc (amlodipine) sales slumped 52% to $513 million. Zyrtec (cetirizine) revenues collapsed 75% to $117 million, while loss of patent protection also hurt the antidepressant Zoloft (sertraline), which was down 17% to $122 million.

It was not all doom and gloom for Pfizer, however, as turnover of Lyrica (pregabalin), for epilepsy and neuropathic pain, rocketed 47% to $582 million, the smoking cessation drug Chantix (varenicline) soared 71% to $277 million and the kidney cancer treatment Sutent (sunitinib) climbed 86% to $190 million. The erectile dysfunction drug Viagra (sildenafil) was up 6% to $460 million and the COX-2 inhibitor Celebrex (celecoxib) edged up 2% at $611 million.

Chief Executive Officer Jeff Kindler said that the financials for first-quarter 2008 are not comparable to the year-ago period due to the loss of US exclusivity of Norvasc in late March 2007 and Zyrtec in late January 2008. However, he claimed that the results “are in-line with our expectations” and his enthusiasm was backed by chief financial officer Frank D’Amelio.

He said that Pfizer is continuing to make progress on its cost-reduction initiatives “and are well on our way to achieving at least a $1.5 to $2.0 billion reduction in adjusted total costs at the end of 2008 versus 2006”. He added that the firm is also on track to generate $17-$18 billion in operating cash flow in 2008 and confirmed its full-year forecast for adjusted earnings of $2.35- $2.45 per share on revenues of $47-$49 billion.

The response from the investment community was not so positive as the results missed forecasts from analysts who hoped that Lipitor would have benefited more from the concerns that surround Schering-Plough/Merck & Co’s Vytorin (ezetimibe and simvastatin).