You know those tiny spoons that they give you at the ice cream shop to try a flavor before you buy it? That's pretty much what Pfizer's (NYSE: PFE) investors got in the third quarter.

Revenue increased 39%, but that's because the year-ago quarter didn't include Wyeth, which was added after the third quarter ended. Unlike Merck (NYSE: MRK), which gives historical combined sales as if it had owned Schering-Plough last year, Pfizer isn't as kind. Worse yet, the close date of Oct. 15 last year was before Wyeth reported third-quarter 2009 results and Pfizer didn't bother to report them, so investors can't even do the calculations themselves.

The math we can do doesn't look pretty. Like many drugmakers -- Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY), Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT), and Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY), among others -- Pfizer missed analysts' revenue estimates for the combined company. Sales of Pfizer's legacy biopharmaceutical products in every division other than emerging markets fell. Sales of top-selling Lipitor fell 11% worldwide because of generic competition in Canada and Spain, and U.S. Lipitor sales suffered a 6% decline.

That fall is going to look like nothing when the triple-scoop sundae hits this time next year. U.S. Lipitor sales still make up 8% of total worldwide revenue. You can expect most, though not all, of those sales to disappear after generic competition enters the market in November 2011.

That said, Pfizer has been going on a diet in anticipation of the oversized dessert. The company expects adjusted earnings in 2012 of $2.25 to $2.35 per share, which is slightly higher than the $2.17 to $2.22 per share that it's guiding for this year.

If Pfizer can hit that target and be set to grow post-Lipitor, shares could be a good deal at this level, especially considering the fat dividend. But that counts on the P/E expanding, which won't happen until investors are convinced the company can actually grow.

Get the main course in order, Pfizer, and investors will come in for a bite.

Pfizer is a recommendation of the Inside Value newsletter. If you're interested in picking through the wreckage for possible turnaround candidates, you should have the Inside Valueteam on your side. Check it out for free with a 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool's disclosure policy once tried all 31 flavors in one visit and still couldn't decide.