Pfizer has reported a major rise in sales and earnings for the fourth quarter, though the results have been overshadowed, at least in the UK, by the news that the drugs giant is to close its R&D facility at Sandwich, with 2,400 jobs affected.

The decision is part of Pfizer’s strategy to "create a more focused and sustainable R&D engine for innovation", the company said, part of which involves exiting certain therapeutic areas, including allergy and respiratory, which is based at Sandwich. Over the next 18-24 months, a majority of the 2,400 positions at the Kent plant will be redundant, but the company hopes to transfer "several hundred positions to other Pfizer sites or to external partners".

Pfizer went on to say that it is "working actively to find partnership opportunities which can utilise the facilities and buildings, in an effort to preserve jobs and activity on the site". Ruth McKernan, site head at Sandwich, spoke of "a deep sense of sadness" but stressed that the decision "is no reflection on the site, the workforce or the operating environment in the UK".

The news is a blow for the UK government and Business Secretary Vince Cable described the news as "extremely disappointing". He added that he will be meeting with "Pfizer, other key companies and local representatives as a matter of urgency to discuss innovative ideas for continuing R&D activities in this very well equipped facility, and how the key strands of the R&D portfolio based at Sandwich can best engage with academic teams across the UK".

Back to the figures, and Pfizer's net profit came in at $2.89 billion, compared with $767 million in the like, year-earlier period. Turnover hit $17.56 billion, an increase of 6%, favourably impacted by $2.3 billion, or 14%, from treatments acquired through the Wyeth buy in 2009, but down $1.2 billion, due to Pfizer's own products.

Biopharmaceutical sales were up 3% to $15.05 billion but revenues from the cholesterol blockbuster Lipitor (atorvastatin) fell 17% to $2.63 billion, hit by competition from other statins and the loss of patent protection in Canada and Spain. Generic competition also hurt the blood pressure treatment Norvasc (amlodipine), which fell 21% to $386 million, while the COX-2 inhibitor Celebrex (celecoxib) fell 7% to $622 million.

The erectile dysfunction blockbuster Viagra (sildenafil) brought in $499 million, down 9%, while the glaucoma drug Xalatan (latanoprost) had sales of $462 million (-7%). Revenues from Lyrica (pregabalin), for epilepsy, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain were flat at $821 million, while the kidney cancer treatment Sutent (sunitinib) edged up 1% to $295 million. The smoking cessation drug Chantix/Champix (varenicline) leapt 32% to $233 million.

As for Wyeth products, the antidepressant Effexor (venlafaxine) contributed $206 million, down 60% as a result of generic competition, though there were strong performances for the pneumococcal disease vaccine Prevnar franchise ($975 million; +22%) and the arthritis and psoriasis therapy Enbrel (etanercept; $865 million outside North America), a rise of 129%.

Wyeth’s antibiotic Zosyn/Tazocin (piperacillin/tazobactam) brought in $203 million, up 10%, while the Premarin (conjugated oestrogens) range of hormone replacement therapies contributed $261 million to Pfizer’s coffers, an increase of 23%. The antiulcerant Protonix had sales of $155 million, up 128%.

Pfizer’s ‘diversified’ division, which includes animal and consumer health products, plus nutritional items and Capsugel, which Pfizer is thinking of selling off, saw revenues climb 34% to $2.43 billion.