The world’s largest pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, saw first quarter income slump by 87% to $301 million dollars after financials were hit by charges relating to the recent market withdrawal of its COX-2 painkiller, Bextra (valdecoxib) [[08/04/05a]], as well as a tax provision to repatriate overseas profits.

The company, which took a $766 million charge relating to the Bextra suspension in the first quarter, as well as $2.2 billion of tax expense related to the planned repatriation of $28.3 billion in overseas cash later in the year, reiterated that 2005 would be a “transitional year” [[20/01/05a]]. Results for the twelve months look set to be impacted by the loss of US exclusivity of four major products – the anti-fungal, Diflucan (fluconazole), the epilepsy drug, Neurontin (gabapentin), and the high blood pressure medicine, Accupril (quinapril), during 2004, and the Zithromax (azithromycin) antibiotic in 2005. Revenues will also continue to be hit by the Bextra suspension, which looks set to knock as much as $0.10 off full-year earnings per share. The drug brought in $1.3 billion in sales last year. Income for the twelve months is now forecast to come in at around $14.7 billion – around 3% higher than the $11.4 billion recorded in 2004.

Total revenues for the three months rose 5% to $13.1 billion versus the corresponding quarter of 2004 [[21/04/04a]], and included a 4% increase in sales from the human health business to $11.4 billion. Strong performances came from the blockbuster lipid-lowerer, Lipitor (atorvastatin), which was up 23% to $3.1 billion, Zithromax, which climbed 71% to $797 million, and the anti---cancer agents, Aromasin (exemestane), up 134% to $55 million and Camptosar (irinotecan), up 132% to $212 million.

“Pfizer is a business going through the natural process of reinventing itself,” said chairman and chief executive, Hank McKinnell. Vice chairman, David Shedlarz, added that the firm was anticipating returning to double-digit earnings growth by 2007.