As expected, Pfizer's sales and earnings for the first quarter have been hit as a result of generic competition to the cholesterol blockbuster Lipitor.

Net income fell 19% to $1.79 billion, which included a charge of $450 million taken to settle a lawsuit with Brigham Young University and its claim to a share of profits from pain drug Celebrex (celecoxib), sales of which came in at $634 million, up 7%. Group turnover was $15.40 billion, down 7%.

Biopharmaceutical sales decreased 8% to $13.07 billion and Lipitor (atorvastatin) fell 42% to just under $1.40 billion, hit by competition from other statins and the loss of patent protection in the USA: sales there fell 71% to $383 million.

The blood pressure treatment Norvasc (amlodipine) fell 6% to $334 million, while the erectile dysfunction blockbuster Viagra (sildenafil) brought in $496 million, up 6%. The glaucoma drug Xalatan (latanoprost) slumped 42% to $227 million.

Lyrica sales just shy of $1 billion

Sales of Lyrica (pregabalin), for epilepsy, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain, increased 16% to $955 million, while the kidney cancer treatment Sutent (sunitinib) was up 9% to $300million. However, the smoking cessation drug Chantix/Champix (varenicline) sank 11% to $178 million.

As for products Pfizer got hold of through its acquisition of Wyeth, sales of the pneumococcal disease vaccine Prevnar/Prevenar 13 slipped 6% to $941 mllion. The arthritis and psoriasis therapy Enbrel (etanercept) brought in $899 million outside North America (+3%), while the antidepressant Effexor XR (venlafaxine) fell 37% to $129 million. The Premarin (conjugated oestrogens) range of hormone replacement therapies contributed $261 million to Pfizer’s coffers, an increase of 11%.

Pfizer's animal health division, part of which is likely to be spun off through an initial public offering, had sales of $1.03 billion, up 4%, while consumer healthcare slipped 1% to $735 million. The firm's nutrition unit, which has just been sold to Nestle for $11.85 billion, saw turnover rise 9% to $513 million.

Chief executive Ian Read said he was pleased with "growth in key geographies such as China, as well as our continued ability to realise cost savings and efficiently allocate our shareholders’ capital". He noted that 2012 should see key regulatory decisions for the anti-clotting drug Eliquis (apixaban), partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb, tofacitinib for rheumatoid arthritis and bosutinib for chronic myelogenous leukaemia.

In addition, Mr Read said Pfizer is looking forward to receiving Phase III data for bapineuzumab for Alzheimer’s disease in mid-2012. He also enthused about "the emerging profiles of our next wave of innovative pipeline candidates which are in Phase II or early Phase III studies in areas such as oncology, vaccines, hyperlipidaemia and pain".

For full-year 2012, Pfizer now expects to report adjusted earnings of $2.14 -$2.24 per share, down from $2.20-$2.30, as a result of nutrition now being  classed as a discontinued operation. Revenue guidance has been lowered to$58-$60 billion from $60.5-$62.5 billion.

Gaucher disease drug Elelyso gets FDA OK

Meantime, just after the financials came out, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer and Protalix Biotherapeutics' Elelyso (taliglucerase alfa) for Gaucher disease, some 14 months after initially rejecting the intravenous enzyme replacement therapy.

The treatment, which was developed by Israel's Protalix, is the first FDA-approved plant-based ERT (it uses genetically-engineered carrot cells) for the inherited lysosomal storage disorder  which affects fewer than 10,000 people worldwide and 5,000 in the USA. Pfizer claimed that Elelyso will "help minimise the possibility of supply disruptions" caused by the supply problems Sanofi's Genzyme unit has suffered since 2009 for its market-leading therapy Cerezyme (imiglucerase).

There is another drug approved for Gaucher, Shire's Vpriv (velaglucerase alfa), but Pfizer is hoping to bag a significant share of the market by pricing Elelyso at 25% below Cerezyme, which costs around $200,000 per year.