Pfizer sales fall after key patents expire

Falling sales of Pfizer's key cholesterol drug, Lipitor, in the face of generic competition hit sales at the American pharmaceuticals giants in the first quarter.

Pfizer reported a 13 per cent fall in sales of Lipitor yesterday as it posted $16.5bn (£10bn) in overall revenues for the first three months of the year, slightly below the figures for last year and missing the $16.6bn expected by analysts. But net income was higher, rising to $2.2bn – against $2bn last year.

Worldwide sales of Lipitor, the company's biggest drug, fell to $2.4bn, down from $2.8bn in 2010.

The cholesterol treatment, which is set to face generic competition in the US from November, lost patent protection in the Canadian and Spanish markets in May and July last year.

Along with the loss of US exclusivity of the company's Alzheimer's treatment, Aricept, in November 2010, Pfizer said the expiries had hit revenues at its primary-care arm by about $590m, or 10 per cent, compared with the same period in 2010.

The impact on key drugs underscores the challenge faced by the new chief executive Ian Read, who is looking to turn Pfizer into a leaner business with plans to cut the company's 2012 research budget by up to $2bn and close the group's long-standing UK research centre in Sandwich.

The results saw Pfizer shares fall by almost 3 per cent in early afternoon trade on Wall Street.