Pfizer raises 2006 estimate, adds drug candidates

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pfizer Pfizer Inc. raised its 2006 earnings estimate and said the number of experimental products it has under development, including drugs for AIDS, obesity and cancer, jumped 60 percent since early this year.

Pfizer, the world's biggest drugmaker, increased its adjusted earnings estimate to at least $2.05 a share from a previous forecast of $2 a share, the New York-based company said today in a statement. There are 242 drugs in the pipeline, the statement said, an increase of 90 since February 2006.

Pfizer needs new products to replace revenue it will lose as patent protection runs out by 2011 on drugs that generated almost half of the company's $51 billion in sales last year. The best-selling Lipitor cholesterol drug, which accounts for $13 billion a year, will face generic competition in four years. New Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Kindler is also expanding a plan to cut $4 billion in costs by 2008.
"The raising of guidance is a positive indication that this new Pfizer regime is executing according to plan, and that it is delivering on its guidance to lower the cost base," said Chris Shibutani, an analyst at J.P. Morgan in New York, in a report today. "Furthermore, we look for sentiment to be bolstered today by improving visibility on pipeline prospects."

Today's meeting is the 51-year-old Kindler's first public discussion of his plans since taking the top job July 28. The board ousted his predecessor, Hank McKinnell, after investors said Pfizer wasn't changing fast enough in a period of slowing sales. In five years under McKinnell, the stock lost 40 percent of its value. Since his replacement, it is up 6.4 percent.

Pfizer's shares rose 42 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $27.49 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The stock has increased 29.7 percent in 2006.

Analysts had questioned whether Pfizer has enough new therapies to replace revenue lost to generic-drug makers. Pfizer officials met today with analysts and investors at its offices in Groton, Connecticut, to outline the company's research plans.

Pfizer began selling four new drugs this year, two fewer than expected. Next year, Pfizer said it expects to get U.S. approval on two treatments, for HIV and a deadly hospital infection. Pfizer will have 38 drugs in the final stages of testing and 51 in early human testing in 2007, the company said.

In 2008, the company plans to ask U.S. regulators to approve five drugs, including treatments for cancer, HIV, cholesterol and skin cancer.

"We recognize that our success depends on doing the hard work every day to make our company as innovative and agile as it can be," Kindler said.

The CEO has said he would deepen cuts initiated by his predecessor, and Pfizer on Nov. 28 announced it would cut 20 percent of its U.S. sales force, 2,200 positions, in December.

David Shedlarz, Pfizer's vice chairman, said the drugmaker also plans to increase its licensing of products and technologies to help fill its research program. He said the company expects the strategy to create two new products per year beginning in 2010.

"We recognize that many great ideas and insights arise in laboratories and clinics around the world," Shedlarz said. "We are determined to be a magnet for those ideas, and to apply our resources prudently to turn them into valuable and innovative healthcare solutions."

To help in its hunt for new products, Pfizer is entering a partnership with the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. Pfizer and Scripps researchers will work together on developing new tests and treatments for diseases, including diabetes, cancer and mental illness, the statement said.

Under the 5-year agreement, Pfizer will pay Scripps Research $100 million, Scripps said in a separate statement today.

Pfizer said it will file in December for U.S. regulatory approval of its AIDS drug candidate, Maraviroc, the third treatment it will offer in that market. The therapy blocks a receptor used by the virus to enter human cells, a new mechanism for treatment. The drug may generate more than $300 million in sales by 2011, said David Risinger, a Merrill Lynch analyst, in a report this week.

The company also said for the first time that it has two new cholesterol drug candidates that raise so-called good cholesterol, or HDL, that are in the first of three stages of testing needed for regulatory approval. Previously, Pfizer had only publicly discussed one such drug, torcetrapib, which also raises HDL.

Recently reported data showing that torcetrapib, in third- stage testing, may increase blood pressure more than expected has spurred the company to push development of other options. Pfizer is counting on sales of a new cholesterol product to

Pfizer repeated an earlier statement that it will seek U.S. marketing approval for torcetrapib in second half 2007.

The company also plans to start selling a drug called Zeven that fights deadly staph infections, and could have nearly $400 million in sales by 2011, said Merrill Lynch's Risinger.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration told Pfizer earlier this year it needed more information on Zeven before approval. Pfizer acquired Zeven along with a product already on the market for treating hospital-acquired blood infections called Eraxis when it bought Vicuron Pharmaceuticals Inc. in September 2005 for $1.7 billion.

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