Despite solid fourth quarter, Wyeth cautious about 2008

MADISON, N.J. Wyeth released its 2007 fourth-quarter report and it showed that while the company profited in the fourth quarter, the company expects 2008 to be an off year, according to published reports.

Wyeth said net income for the three months that ended Dec. 31 rose to $1.02 billion from $855.4 million. Wyeth’s fourth-quarter sales rose 10 percent to $5.76 billion from $5.22 billion a year earlier. Sales of Effexor rose 3 percent to $968 million.

Wyeth, though, now is facing trouble for 2008, and it comes in the form of generic competition. Generic manufacturers recently began selling copycat versions of Wyeth’s drug Protonix, for heartburn, which is expected to erode sales of Wyeth’s product.

Wyeth said it planned on seeking lost profits and other damages from the generics companies in a patent-infringement trial expected later this year. Protonix had $1.9 billion in sales in 2007. Wyeth also faces potential new generic competition for two other major drugs, the antidepressant Effexor and antibiotic Zosyn.

Sales of Effexor rose 3 percent to $968 million, but those sales might take a hit if Sun Pharmaceuticals launches a tablet version of the extended release version of Effexor in the summer.

Protonix sales rose 10 percent to $461 million. But Wyeth has lost U.S. market exclusivity for the drug after generic drugmakers Teva Pharmaceuticals and Caraco Pharmaceutical Labs—owned by Sun—launched copycat versions, despite the existence of a patent set to expire in 2010. Wyeth this week began selling its own generic Protonix in partnership with Prasco Laboratories.

Wyeth said it now expects 2008 earnings of $3.35 to $3.49 per share, excluding certain items, representing a decrease of 1 to 5 percent from 2007 levels. Analysts had expected 2008 earnings of $3.54 per share. The company also expects to cut its 50,000-employee workforce by 4-to-6 percent during the middle of this year,

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