Apart from judicial rulings on patents or unexpected product recalls or withdrawals, the pharmaceutical industry is actually a bit sluggish on a quarter-to-quarter basis. It takes years to develop drugs, and once they hit the market those sales usually go on for some time. I point this out mostly for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the pharmaceutical industry: It takes time to turn these ships around, and the biggest ship of all, Motley Fool Inside Value pick Pfizer
Results for the second quarter were, as expected, pretty snooze-inducing. Revenue rose all of 1%, and human health sales (the company's branded prescription drugs) were down 1%. A bit unusual for a large pharmaceutical company, Pfizer's consumer health business grew 12% and the animal health business grew 19%.
The net income line is something of a mess. Stripping out the various charges and benefits, you end up with a net income figure of $3.4 billion (5% below last year) and $0.46 a share in earnings -- down 2% from the year-ago period.
Not a lot changed in terms of the performance of Pfizer's top drugs. Lipitor sales were up 21% as this uber-drug closed in on $3 billion of quarterly sales. Norvasc sales climbed 12% to $1.2 billion, Zoloft rose 1% to just under $800 million, and Zithromax was up 14% to $424 million. On the down side, Neurontin fell by 79% and Celebrex fell 45%.
I still believe there is reason to be hopeful about Pfizer's future. The company has very aggressive cost-savings targets for the coming years and is looking across the board (research and development, manufacturing, sales, and IT) at ways of trimming costs and improving operations.
What's more, the company continues to generate copious cash and spends a lot of that on R&D. While internal R&D efforts haven't always panned out, Pfizer has been more than willing to spend cash to acquire other promising companies, as it did with Vicuron
Pfizer still has challenges and will need its late-stage pipeline to come through and compensate for the loss of patent protection on drugs like Norvasc. Nevertheless, it's rare to have an opportunity to buy a proven winner like Pfizer at current prices. Investors may have to live through periods when Pfizer looks like "dead money," but over the long haul this could prove to be a solid pick.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).