Bristol-Myers Squibb says that net income from continuing operations fell 41.0% to $483 million in the fourth quarter, hit by higher-than-expected taxes and the cost of US healthcare reforms, though its bloodthinner blockbuster Plavix is still selling well. 

Group sales edged up 2% to $5.11 billion, and Plavix (clopidogrel) turnover was up 6% to $1.72 billion. However, sales of the antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole) were flat at $608 million and the antihypertensive Avapro/Avalide (irbesartan) was down 26% to $252 million. As for the firm's HIV drugs, sales of the Sustiva (efavirenz) franchise rose 1% to $360 million, and Reyataz (atazanavir) was down 4% to $374 million. Revenues from Baraclude (entecavir) for hepatitis B climbed 25% to $264 million.

Sprycel (dasatanib) for leukaemia rose 42% to $169 million, while Orencia (abatacept) for rheumatoid arthritis increased 20% to $202 million. The cancer agent Erbitux (cetuximab) fell 1% to $165 million.

B-MS has forecast low- to mid single-digit revenue growth in 2011 and adjusted earnings in the range of $2.10-$2.20 per share. Chief executive Lamberto Andreotti noted that key regulatory submissions in the fourth quarter "provided further proof of our ability to build one of the most innovative pipelines in the industry” and in 2011, "we anticipate several key pipeline events that will help shape our future".

The earnings forecast disappointed analysts but most of them do like the look of B-MS' pipeline. Tim Anderson at Sanford Bernstein issued a research note saying that 2011 "is likely to be a busy year" for the firm "in terms of meaningful news flow and potential new product approvals". He added that B-MS "remains the best pipeline story among the US and European pharmaceutical companies we cover".