Cephalon of the USA has posted a loss for the fourth quarter of 2006 but turnover leapt 44% to $484.7 million on the back of strong sales of its narcolepsy drug Provigil.

The firm’s loss was $4.9 million, or $0.08 per share share, compared with last year's fourth-quarter profit of $18.1 million, or $0.30 per share as the company suffered from debt expenses and other one-time charges. Excluding these factors, however, Cephalon said it would have earned $1.06 a share in the most recent quarter, well ahead of consensus estimates, and the strong performance prompted the firm to raise its 2007 earnings forecast up $0.03 to $3.90-$4.00 per share. Cephalon’s sales estimate for the full year remained unchanged at $1.68-$1.73 billion.

The sales increase was due primarily to Provigil (modafinil), which has been on the market for eight years and still managed to advance 38% to $204.7 million. Sales of the opioid painkiller Actiq (fentanyl) fell 8% to $108.9 million but the company was pleased that it had successfully transitioned patients onto its follow-up drug to Actiq, called Fentora, a tablet formulation of fentanyl which received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. Fentora contributed sales of $29.3 million in the fourth quarter.

Cephalon chief executive Frank Baldino said that Fentora and “the remarkable growth of Provigil” will continue to drive earnings, and he added that “our promising oncology pipeline will provide an additional platform for our continued growth." Highlights of the pipeline include CEP-701 (lestaurininib), which is in Phase III trials for acute myeloid leukaemia and Treanda (bendamustine) for indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is also in Phase III.