US giants post strong results despite dollar effect

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Pfizer, Merck & Co and Bristol-Myers Squibb all posted healthy financials for the first quarter, despite being hit by the effects of the strong dollar.

First up, Pfizer’s net income reached $2.38 billion, up 2%, while revenues slipped 4% to $10.86 billion. Its best-selling therapy, Lyrica (pregabalin) for epilepsy, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain, increased 3% to $1.19 billion, while the Prevnar pneumococcal disease vaccine franchise leapt 41% to $1.30 billion.

The COX-2 inhibitor Celebrex (celecoxib) sank 67% to $205 million, hit by generics, while sales of the off-patent cholesterol lowerer Lipitor (atorvastatin) fell 4% to $441 million. The erectile dysfunction blockbuster Viagra (sildenafil) rose 6% to $396 million.

In terms of newer products, Xalkori (crizotinib) for advanced non-small cell lung cancer reached $111 million, up 26%, while the rheumatoid arthritis pill Xeljanz (tofacitinib) shot up 85% to $96 million.

As for Merck, the strong dollar and acquisition costs meant that net income was down 45% to $958 million, while sales fell 8% to $9.43 billion. However the results were much better than expected.

Diabetes treatments Januvia (sitagliptin) and Janumet (sitagliptin/metformin) grew 4% to $1.4 billion, while those from anti-inflammatory drugs Remicade (infliximab), licensed from Johnson & Johnson in Europe, brought in $501 million, down 17% as biosimilar copies started to hit sales. Merck also highlighted the $83 million brought in by Keytruda (pembrolizumab), its closely-watched checkpoint inhibitor for melanoma.

Staying with immunotherapies, B-MS’ melanoma PD-1 inhibitor Opdivo (nivolumab), which has also just been approved for lung cancer, contributed $40 million to the company’s $4.04 billion sales. Net profits climbed to $1.19 billion from $937 million.

The antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole) rose 3% to $554 million, while the melanoma drug Yervoy (ipilimumab), which may be approved in combination with Opdivo, climbed 20% to $325 million. Sprycel (dasatanib) for leukaemia was up 10% to $375 million, while Orencia (abatacept) for rheumatoid arthritis also increased 10% to $400 million.

Sales of the blood thinner Eliquis (apixaban) hit $355 million, compared to $106 million for the same period last year.