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Pharmacia, Wyeth forced to struggle

New York, Oct. 23 (Reuters): Drugmakers Wyeth and Pharmacia Corp. posted anaemic third-quarter results on Tuesday, as consumers weigh the risks and rewards associated with taking their flagship medicines for menopause and arthritis.

Wyeth and Pharmacia, accustomed to reporting quarterly double-digit profit growth, said earnings before items fell 31 per cent and gained 4 per cent, respectively. That is a stark contrast to industry rival Johnson & Johnson, which saw earnings rise 18 per cent this quarter, and Pfizer Inc.’s profit rise of 13 per cent.

“Wall Street was looking for very strong sales out of Pharmacia’s arthritis products, their biggest sellers, but it was only a modest increase, not blow-out growth,” said analyst David Moskowitz of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey. He added lower sales of Wyeth’s hormone replacement drugs Premarin and Prempro stifled margins, hurting the bottom line.

Wyeth suffered a major setback in July when high profile studies linked its top-selling hormone replacement drugs with increased risks of cancer and blood clots, sparking a national debate about how to treat symptoms of menopause. Wyeth’s stock fell to a four-year low.

Peapack, New Jersey-based Pharmacia has endured questions about its best-seller, arthritis drug Celebrex, and sales growth has slowed considerably. Many physicians and insurers are wary of the expensive medicine, and Merck & Co.’s rival medication Vioxx, because they have not proven to be more effective than standard painkillers.

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