Pfizer's Q4 mixed bag spotlights its pipeline dilemma
- Pfizer on Tuesday reported Q4 2015 earnings that missed analyst expectations but also demonstrated a 7% revenue boost.
- However, the company continued to struggle with sales of its older flagship drugs which have lost patent expiration, such as Lipitor and Celebrex (revenues dropped 20% and 66% for those two medications, respectively.
- Pfizer's vaccine unit revenue grew more than 43%, driven by the popular Prevnar franchise, while the cancer therapy Ibrance and products acquired through the company's acquisition of Hospira also provided a boost to the firm's sales.
Pfizer chief Ian Read promised during the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference that Pfizer, and the future combined Pfizer-Allergan entity, would pursue promising pipeline candidates and pay attention to R&D. And as this earnings report demonstrates, that will be necessary to bolster a portfolio in which many flagships have grown stale.
The success of Ibrance shows some promise for Read's oncology ambitions. After sorely lagging behind competitors such as Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck in the first round of checkpoint inhibiting immuno-oncology drugs, Read asserted that Pfizer wouldn't miss the boat on next-gen cancer combos.
But reinflating a pipeline is always fraught with circumstance. For instance, the company also indicated on Tuesday that it had shut down a phase II Alzheimer's clinical trial after success with the candidate appeared unlikely.