Vaccine sales buoy Wyeth

Wyeth on Thursday showed signs that renewed interest in vaccines is paying off for drugmakers, as booming sales of its Prevnar vaccine helped lift quarterly profits 18 per cent.

The US drugmaker reported strong growth worldwide and suggested a bright future in international markets for Prevnar, a vaccine to prevent pneumonia in children. Prevnar sales jumped 60 per cent to $518m, helped by its introduction into the UK’s immunisation programme.

Vaccines have re-emerged as a high-value target for drugmakers, many of which have sought to boost their expertise and product lineups in this category.

Wyeth sees robust future sales growth for Prevnar coming primarily as it is introduced in each new country market around the world while the US market is maturing. In particular, it sees great promise in Asia, which currently accounts for only 10 per cent of Prevnar sales, with approval in huge markets like China or Japan potentially arriving in several years.

Bernard Poussot, head of Wyeth’s pharmaceuticals business, said: “I think that says we have a lot of potential. The lionshare will be internationally, but we still expect some growth in the US.”

Prevnar’s growth, the performance of other key products including antidepressant Effexor and cost control prompted Wyeth to raise its profit outlook for the year. The group expects earnings per share to be at least $3.07 this year – a level once expected to be the maximum it could achieve.

Excluding extraordinary items in the second quarter, Wyeth’s profits rose 18 per cent to $1bn, while sales rose 9 per cent to $5.2bn.

Wyeth’s performance stands out among the big pharmaceutical companies, which have struggled to boost sales while also slashing costs in an effort to achieve profit growth.

Barbara Ryan, analyst at Deutsche Bank, said: “Wyeth’s relatively consistent mid-high single digit [percentage] revenue gains and earnings growth are superior to the drug group, and more in line with the overall market.”

James Kelly, analyst at Goldman Sachs, said: “This was a solid, high quality quarter.”

Wyeth shares rose 1 per cent to $44.78 in New York lunchtime trading.

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