Cost-cutting helped Pfizer to a markedly improved set of first-quarter earnings, allowing it to shrug off a decline in revenues that followed generic competition to some of its top-selling products and a slowdown for top product Lipitor.The world's number one drugmaker posted net income of $4.11 billion, a dramatic improvement on the $301 million reported a year ago, on revenues down 3% to $12.66 billion. The result in the first quarter of 2005 had been impacted by charges related to the withdrawal from the marketplace of COX-2 inhibitor Bextra (valdecoxib) and repatriation of profits made overseas.Pfizer said it remained hopeful that cholesterol-lowerer Lipitor (atorvastatin) would reach its revenue target of more than $13 billion for the year, despite a ‘slower-than-hoped-for start to the year’. The flagship product brought in $3.11 billion, up just 1%, and could face a more competitive environment in the latter half of the year as two rival products, Merck & Co’s Zocor (simvastatin) and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Pravachol (pravastatin), lose patent protection in the USA.There was also a significant contribution from an unlooked for quarter, as COX-2 inhibitor Celebrex (celecoxib) put in a 19% growth spurt to reach $491 million in the quarter, placing it on track to reach its annual target of $2 billion. Pfizer said advertising was the reason for the recovery in the product, which has been affected by the fall-out related to the withdrawal of Merck & Co’s rival product Vioxx (rofecoxib) in 2004 after it was linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke."We continue to expect 2006 revenues to be comparable to those in 2005, with growth of in-line and new products substantially replacing revenue declines from loss of exclusivity," said Pfizer chief financial officer David Shedlarz in a release. He highlighted the loss of US patent protection on two products, antibiotic Zithromax (azithromycin) in the fourth quarter of 2005 and antidepressant Zoloft (sertraline) in the second quarter of 2006 as being two major impacts on the companies finances. But strong growth from newer products such as schizophrenia drug Geodon (ziprasidone), up 32% to $182 million, and Lyrica (pregabalin) for epilepsy and pain, with first quarter revenues of $192 million, helped offset the declines.Pfizer reaffirmed it plans to launch six medicines this year, including Sutent, a cancer drug, and Exubera, an inhaled form of insulin, which were approved in the first quarter of this year along with antifungal Eraxis (anidulafungin). The remaining three, due for approval before year-end, are varenicline for smoking cessation, antibiotic Zeven (dalbavancin) and insomnia treatment indiplon.And the coming months will see five more product filings, including fesoterodine, a product for overactive bladder that Pfizer has reached an agreement to acquire from Schwarz Pharma, maraviroc for HIV/AIDS, asenapine for schizophrenia, ticilimumab for cancer, and torcetrapib/atorvastatin for cholesterol management."Pfizer's first-quarter 2006 results mark the beginning of a year that will be characterized by the transition to the next-generation Pfizer," said Karen Katen, vice chairman of Pfizer and president of Pfizer Human Health.The company also said it had repurchased $1 billion of its stock during the first quarter, and will buy another $1 billion during the second quarter. The company plans to repurchase up to $4 billion by the end of 2006. Shares in Pfizer closed down fractionally at $24.82 yesterday.Pfizer's top 10 products by Q1 sales

  1. Lipitor $3,107m +1%
  2. Norvasc $1,183m +1%
  3. Zoloft $779m -8%
  4. Celebrex $491m +19%
  5. Zyrtec/Zyrtec D $421m +23%
  6. Viagra $390m -11%
  7. Xalatan/Xalacom $337m +1%
  8. Detrol/Detrol LA $260m +3%
  9. Zithromax/Zmax $259m -67%
  10. Camptosar $212m -