Pfizer posts weaker-than-expected Q3 while Sanofi CEO gets the boot
- Revenues: Pfizer's Q3 2014 revenues were down slightly to $12.4 billion, while Sanofi's third-quarter revenues were up slightly to $8.71 billion. In both cases, revenues and net income were weaker than expected. Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher was fired by the company's board of directors on Tuesday evening, citing the need for a more "cooperative" head.
- Generic erosion and marketing shifts: Pfizer faced generic erosion of Detrol LA, as well as expiry of the Spiriva collaboration (in some markets) and the Enbrel agreement. Sanofi had to grapple with generic competition against its blood thinners Plavix and Lovenox. Sanofi is also facing intense competition in its diabetes franchise—which is the company's go-to for therapeutic innovation and sales.
- Bright spots: Pfizer saw solid performance from its oncology and vaccines divisions (up 16% and 19%, respectively), as well as growth of Lyrica sales. Sanofi's sales increased by 24.6% in its rare diseases unit, Genzyme, while developing markets increased 7.6%. Vaccine sales were up 11.6%.
Pfizer has lowered its earnings outlook for the year slightly to a range of $2.23 to $2.27 per share, compared with an earlier forecast of $2.20 to $2.30 per share. The company is cutting costs and focusing on areas of strength to continue to move forward, per Pfizer spokespeople.
Sanofi must contend with challenges to its diabetes empire, including lower sales for its top-selling drug, Lantus (long-acting insulin), which posted growth of only 5.8% compared with 16.3% in the second quarter of this year. Intense pricing pressures in the U.S. took a toll on Sanofi's usual double-digit growth in this franchise.
The company has warned that these challenges will continue as it attempts to shore up its diabetes sales by focusing on marketing its inhaled insulin, Afrezza, and an even longer-acting version of Lantus, Toujeo. But the assurances weren't enough: on Tuesday evening, Sanofi's board announced that it had relieved CEO Chris Viehbacher of his duties.
That isn't exactly shocking considering that Viehbacher had locked horns with the French pharma giant in the past, especially by attempting to shift operations to Boston. But the dire outlook on diabetes sales was the final nail in the coffin.