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Pfizer sales fall short as pressure mounts to make a deal

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Pfizer Inc's sales dropped for the third quarter in a row, which is likely to reignite pressure on the New York drugmaker to make a deal to return to growth.

[NEW YORK] Pfizer Inc's sales dropped for the third quarter in a row, which is likely to reignite pressure on the New York drugmaker to make a deal to return to growth.

Sales declined 2 per cent to US$12.9 billion in the second quarter, Pfizer said Tuesday in a statement. That fell short of the US$13.1 billion average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Investors are watching Pfizer's next move after several quarters of lackluster results, dragged down by its top-selling Prevnar vaccination shots and sales of products that are facing loss of exclusivity, like the erectile dysfunction treatment Viagra. Newer drugs, like blockbuster breast cancer drug Ibrance, showed strength last quarter, but it wasn't enough to lift overall sales.

Ibrance sales grew by 66 per cent per cent to US$853 million in the second quarter. Analysts predicted US$758 million. Another new drug that's expected to drive future growth, rheumatoid arthritis treatment Xeljanz, sold US$336 million, topping the US$294 million average estimates.

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The shares gained 0.7 per cent to US$33.40 at 7:22 a.m. before the US market opened.

Earnings were 67 US cents a share, excluding items, topping the 66-US cent average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The company also raised the lower end of its full-year earnings forecast and now anticipates US$2.54 to US$2.60 a year on that basis.

Pfizer has a busy pipeline across many therapies: the company said Tuesday that as many as 15 in development have potential to be blockbusters, with half that could get regulatory approval by 2020.

The timing is what may concern investors, though. Vamil Divan, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG who recently downgraded Pfizer shares to neutral, wrote in a recent note that the pipeline is a "ways off" from creating "major value." He suggested that even if Pfizer is holding off on large-scale deals, small to mid-size transactions could improve its prospects.

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