Pfizer boosted by strong Q1 and possible cancer blockbuster

After the bruising encounter with US tax authorities that ended its $160 billion merger with Allergan last month, Pfizer can take some solace from a strong first quarter performance of its new drugs – including a potential blockbuster cancer medicine.

Pfizer’s latest Q1 results show its Ibrance (palbociclib) breast cancer drug generated sales of $429 million, almost entirely in the US, just over a year after its launch.

The drug is under review in Europe, so sales could continue to grow if regulators decide to approve it on the other side of the Atlantic.

Global sales jumped 20% to $13 billion, beating Wall Street expectations – although the quarter did include five more days of sales than the previous Q1. These extra days will be offset in the final quarter, when sales could be hurt.

The $150 million it will pay in Q2 to Allergan to compensate for legal costs is a drop in the ocean compared with the profits this quarter of $3.02 billion.

But the undecided matter is whether Pfizer will go ahead with its long floated proposals to split up its business, with its established brands division (generic and non-patented) spun off from its R&D based business. CEO Ian Read said Pfizer a decision on this question will be made by the end of the year.

For now shareholders may be content with raised revenue and earnings forecast for the year while the company decides whether to split, or boost its earnings by using M&A to stock up with new drugs.

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