Pfizer Inc's earnings are likely to slump further this year and its recently released plan to return to double-digit earnings growth next year and in 2007 could be in jeopardy because of Thursday's decision by federal regulators to ban the sale of Bextra, one of its blockbuster pain relievers, analysts said.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked Pfizer to halt the sale of Bextra, which has been linked to increased risk of heart attacks and a rare skin condition. The FDA also said another Pfizer pain medication, Celebrex, must carry a black box warning -- the agency's sternest admonishment -- about its potentially negative cardiovascular and gastrointestinal side effects.
Pfizer shares initially fell almost 5 percent in trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange, but ended the day little changed at US$26.90.
Pfizer officials did not return calls seeking comment. In a statement, Pfizer said it respectfully disagreed with the FDA decision's on Bextra and that it would work with the agency on Celebrex's label.
As part of an announcement on Tuesday that it would slash US$4 billion in costs, Pfizer estimated it would earn US$2 a share this year, down from US$2.12 a share earned last year. Analysts said that was no longer feasible and estimated Pfizer would miss the target by anywhere from US$0.03 to US$0.07.
Company officials also had expressed confidence in their ability to revitalize sales of Celebrex and Bextra, which have declined in recent months because of safety concerns. But with Bextra now off the market, Celebrex's sales prospects are uncertain.
Last year, Celebrex sales totaled US$3.3 billion while Bextra sales were US$1.3 billion.
Celebrex and Bextra belong to class of drugs known as Cox-2 inhibitors, as does Vioxx, a medicine taken off the market last September by Merck & Co after it was linked to increased risk of heart attack and strokes.
"I don't think Celebrex takes a huge hit but I am not comfortable saying this will be a growth product," said Carl Seiden, an analyst at UBS AG.
Doctors said the FDA announcement wouldn't necessarily prompt them to abandon Celebrex, but they also said more tests are needed to quantify the drug's cardiovascular risk and prove whether it reduces problems such as stomach bleeding than can be caused by aspirin and other pain relievers.
Cox-2 were developed to be gentler on the stomach but Celebrex's label doesn't say it reduces gastrointestinal side effects.
"Pfizer needs to do more studies," said Dr. Steven Abramson, chairman of rheumatology at the New York University-Hospital for Joint Diseases.
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