Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) beat Wall Street expectations with higher profit and revenue in the third quarter, the last before generic competition starts wiping out sales of Lipitor, the cholesterol blockbuster that has buoyed the company for years.

Pfizer has a growing presence in the Research Triangle area, having recently closed on the acquisition of Durham-based Icagen in a deal worth more than $50 million.

That deal closed on Friday, Pfizer said in a statement.

“We’re excited that Icagen, a global leader in pain research, has now joined Pfizer,” said Ruth McKernan, senior vice president of Pfizer and chief scientific officer of Neusentis. “We have worked closely with Icagen for several years and have the utmost respect for their expertise. Their understanding of ion channel mechanisms will enhance our ability to develop novel drugs for the treatment of pain and related disorders.”

Pfizer also operates two facilities in North Carolina as part of Pfizer Animal Health – the former Embrex labs in RTP and a former Embrex production facility in Laurinburg.

The company operates a large drug production plant in Sanford, which was part of its acquisition of Wyeth in 2009.

Since the Wyeth deal closed, Pfizer has shut down a research and development operation in Sanford and announced plans to cut the workforce at the facility to 400 from 800 by 2015.

However, the company has said the Sanford plant would become  “primary side for clinical and commercial launch supplies of new vaccines.” The Sanford plant manufactures Preznar, a vaccine for a variety of multiple diseases in children.

Earnings Details

The world’s biggest drugmaker said its net income was $3.74 billion, or 48 cents a share. That was boosted by a $1.32 billion gain from the August sale of its Capsugel capsule-making business.

A year earlier, Pfizer reported net income of $866 million, or 11 cents per share, depressed by $3.51 billion in charges, including restructuring costs, severence payments and asset writedowns related to Pfizer’s 2009 purchase of fellow drugmaker Wyeth and a $701 million litigation reserve.

The maker of impotence pill Viagra and smoking cessation drug Chantix said adjusted income was 62 cents per share. That excludes net charges totaling nearly $1.1 billion: $2.26 billion for writedowns of assets with reduced values, $242 million for acquisition-related costs and $891 million for restructuring and legal costs, partly offset by the gain from the Capsugel sale. The acquisition costs include continuing charges from the Wyeth puchase, plus Pfizer’s $3.6 billion purchase of pain-drug maker King Pharmaceuticals Inc. on Feb. 28.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $17.2 billion, including a 6 percent boost from favorable currency exchange rates.

The results beat expectations for adjusted earnings of 55 cents per share on revenue of $16.43 billion.

Pfizer raised its 2011 profit forecast to a range of $1.20 to $1.30 per share, from $1.09 to $1.24 per share. Excluding one-time items, it expects earnings per share of $2.24 to $2.29, also up several cents.

The company reaffirmed its forecast for 2012, the first full year after Lipitor, the world’s top-selling drug with about $11 billion in annual revenue, loses its U.S. patent on Nov. 30. The company expects 2012 revenue of about $63.5 billion and adjusted earnings per share of $2.25 to $2.35.

Pfizer shares fell 22 cents to $19.03 in premarket trading.

“Overall, I am very pleased with our financial performance despite the impact of product losses of exclusivity totaling approximately $950 million this quarter and the challenges posed by current global market and economic conditions,” CEO Ian Read said in a statement, adding, “We remain well prepared for the Lipitor U.S. loss of exclusivity later this month and in various other countries shortly thereafter.”

U.S. revenue fell 3 percent to $6.9 billion, but international revenue, boosted by currency exchange rates, rose 15 percent to $10.3 billion.

Prescription drug sales totaled $1.75 billion, up 6 percent, as sales in emerging markets such as China and India jumped 18 percent to $2.45 billion.

Sales were led by Lipitor, down 2 percent at $2.6 billion, although U.S. sales jumped 13 percent to $1.47 billion because of price increases and a final advertising push.

Prevnar Sales Surge

Prevnar, a blockbuster vaccine against ear, brain and blood infections, saw sales jump 35 percent to $1.01 billion. An older version covering fewer strains of pneumococcal disease added $98 million in sales.

Lyrica, for pain and fibromyalgia, and arthritis drug Enbrel both had strong growth, with each bringing in about $1 billion in the quarter. Sales of painkiller Celebrex rose 8 percent to $643 million, and Viagra sales edged up 2 percent to $493 million.

Meanwhile, sales of 24 other drugs declined, mostly because of competition from cheaper generic versions.

Sales of veterinary medicines rose 21 percent to $1.04 billion, consumer health products were up 15 percent to $774 million and nutrition products such as Centrum vitamins grew 31 percent to $577 million.

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