The world’s largest pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, reported an almost quadrupling of fourth quarter profits versus the same period last year to $2.8 billion dollars [[23/01/04a]], as a continuing strong performances from its blockbuster cholesterol-lowerer, Lipitor (atorvastatin), drove revenues up by 7% to just shy of $15 billion. However, the figures are slightly skewed as the company’s fourth quarter 2003 financials were dragged down by costs associated with the Pharmacia takeover [[16/04/03d]], and the continued weakness of the US dollar helped to artificially boost sales.

During the three-month period, sales of Lipitor rose 23% to $3.3 billion, while good performances also came from the arthritis and acute pain medicines, Celebrex (celecoxib) and Bextra (valdecoxib) – up 24% to $1 billion and 57% to $417 billion – which no doubt benefited from the withdrawal of Merck & Co’s competing product, Vioxx (rofecoxib), last year [[01/10/04a]]. However, whether these products continue on this upward curve in the future remains to be seen. Although Pfizer says it remains confident in the drugs’ safety, the company was hit last month when trial data showed that Celebrex was linked to a more than doubling in the risk of heart attack [[20/12/04a]]. “Pfizer’s commitment to doing what’s best for patients has been the basis for our response to recent concerns regarding the cardiovascular safety of Celebrex and Bextra,” the company said in a statement, adding: “This means helping to ensure that doctors have relevant data available on Celebrex and Bextra so that they can make appropriate prescribing decisions for their individual patients.”

Other solid performances driving a 6% increase in the human health segment to $13 billion, came from the antibiotic Zyvox (linezolid) – up 73% to $135 million – the anti-cancer agent, Campto (irinotecan), which surged 129% to $189 million, the over-active bladder treatment, Detrol LA (tolterodine extended release), which climbed 22% to $285 million, and the glaucoma medicine, Xalatan (latanoprost) – up 23% to $353 million.

Looking to the future, Pfizer reiterated that revenue and income growth will likely be “tempered” in the near term due to the expiry of patents covering several key drugs [[21/10/04b]]. It is planning to provide specific financial guidance for 2005 at an analyst meeting planned for April.