Ahead of its merger with Pfizer, Wyeth has posted a solid set of financials for the first quarter which reveal higher-than-expected earnings but a sales decline hit by the impact of foreign exchange.

Net income was fairly flat at just shy of $1.20 billion, while group sales were down 6% to $5.35 billion. However, they were up 2% excluding the effect of the stronger dollar.

Excluding currency effects, pharmaceutical revenues rose 2% to $4.49 billion, driven by the pneumococcal disease vaccine Prevnar, which grew 7% to $755 million. Sales of the arthritis and psoriasis therapy Enbrel (etanercept) were up 3% to $627 million (excluding the USA and Canada, where it is co-marketed with Amgen; alliance revenue there was down 26% to $240 million).

Wyeth’s best-seller continues to be the antidepressant Effexor (venlafaxine), though sales were down 20% to $819 million as a result of generic competition, a factor which reduced sales of the antibiotic Zosyn/Tazocin (piperacillin/tazobactam) by 9% to $310 million. The firm’s Premarin (conjugated oestrogens) range of hormone replacement therapies fell 11% to $246 million,

As for the antiulcerant Protonix (pantoprazole), sales were up 35% to $215 million, and $123 million of that came from Wyeth’s own generic version of the drug.

These better-than-expected results impressed analysts and Catherine Arnold at Credit Suisse noted that while some investors “were apprehensive about Enbrel and Prevnar revenues”, the figures “should be met with some relief". Wyeth reiterated its full-year earnings-per-share forecast of $3.33-$3.53, excluding items.