Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has posted another strong set of fourth-quarter results which show that net income jumped 24% to $570 million, or $0.69 per share, helped by sales of its generic version of Wyeth’s gastrointestinal drug Protonix.

Sales were up 13% to $2.57 billion, ahead of analyst forecasts which had not fully taken into consideration the impact of Teva’s copycat Protonix (pantoprazole). In less than five weeks since its controversial launch, the drug has already obtained 68% of new prescriptions in the USA, according to chief executive Shlomo Yanai.

Teva shipped supplies of generic Protonix from December 21 but agreed to halt shipments three days under a standstill agreement with Wyeth in order to negotiate a possible settlement. This was not forthcoming and the US firm launched its own authorised generic at the end of last month.

Since then, Teva has said it had no plans to resume shipments of the copycat drug but Mr Yanai said this decision was a commercial one, not legal. Analysts believe that the Petah Tikvah-based drugmaker sold up to four months’ worth of generic pantoprazole in the few days that it shipped the product.

Aside from the Protonix factor, Teva was boosted by sales of Copaxone (glatiramer acetate). The multiple sclerosis treatment brought in $436 million, an increase of 15%, which makes Copaxone the leading therapy for the disease in the USA, while sales of the firm's Parkinson's disease drug Azilect (rasagiline) brought in $34 million, up 79%. Global respiratory revenues reached $189 million, an 18% increase on the corresponding quarter last year, due almost entirely to sales of firm's branded asthma inhaler ProAir (albuterol).

First to file on 49 compounds
The rest of the cash comes mainly from generics and Teva noted that as of February 7, it had 160 product applications awaiting final US Food and Drug Administration approval. The company believes it will be the first to file on 49 of these, relating to products whose annual US branded sales are over $40 billion. In Europe, Teva has 154 compounds pending submission in 310 formulations.

Mr Yanai said that “the significant momentum that we generated in 2007” will continue throughout 2008, resulting in another excellent year for Teva." He added that for this year he expects net sales to be around $10.75 billion with earnings per share of $2.60-$2.75. For 2009, EPS should exceed $3.00