Pfizer disappoints in Q4 after Ibrance misses sales targets

Pfizer kicked off big pharma’s final results season with a disappointing readout that sent its share price ticking down, with breast cancer drug Ibrance missing sales expectations and off-patent pain drug Lyrica hit hard by generic competition.

The big US pharma is heading for a period of change, where it is planning to sell off products that have lost patent protection, such as Lyrica and Viagra, and merge them into the generics firm Mylan.

Pfizer expects the merger of the generics unit dubbed “Upjohn” to be completed by the middle of the year, and CEO Albert Bourla hopes this will allow the company to focus on growing sales of its more profitable newer medicines.

The big pharma is also planning a moratorium on share repurchases this year: this is a common strategy in the industry to prop up share prices, but Pfizer said it does not plan any further buybacks after snapping up nearly $9 billion of its own shares last year.

Quoted by Reuters, chief financial officer Frank D’Amelio said: “We will focus instead on increasing the dividend and investing in the business during this period of growth.”

Bourla said that such “financial engineering” is not necessary and could dilute its deal-making ability.

Ibrance has been earmarked by analysts as an important driver for growth, but its sales fell short of expectations despite an increase of 13% to $1.28 billion in the quarter.

Consensus had been $1.35 billion, however, and sales of Lyrica plunged 67% to $433 million because of generic competition.

Pfizer’s pneumococcal disease vaccine Prevnar 13/Prevenar 13 continues to perform well with sales nudging up 4% to nearly $1.58 billion for the quarter.

Total revenue fell 9% to $12.69 billion in Q4, although this reflected the absence of its consumer health business that was spun off into a joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline last year.

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