By Lewis Krauskopf and Ransdell Pierson
(Reuters) – Competition from low-cost generic drugs squeezed quarterly profits at Pfizer Inc (PFE.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Eli Lilly & Co (LLY.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) but the drugmakers were able to somewhat weather those declines with help from other medicines.
Both Pfizer, the world’s biggest drugmaker, and Lilly topped Wall Street’s dim profit expectations. Lilly also said its closely watched experimental Alzheimer’s treatment was given a green light for further study.
(Reuters) – WellPoint Inc (WLP.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) posted sharply lower fourth-quarter earnings that missed analysts’ estimates, hurt by high medical claims for its Medicare plans for the elderly, and issued a 2012 profit forecast that could fall short of Wall Street’s target.
Shares of the No. 2 U.S. health insurer by market value dropped more than 6 percent in premarket trading on Wednesday.
NEW YORK/PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – As healthcare mergers go, this one is unique: Express Scripts Inc (ESRX.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) will not find a target in the pharmacy benefit industry anywhere near as large as Medco Health Solutions Inc (MHS.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), while Medco realistically has little shot at wooing a suitor other than its chief rival.
So, if Express Scripts’ $29 billion bid for Medco is blocked by U.S. antitrust regulators, Wall Street expects the pharmacy benefit management companies will avoid a second try at a massive deal.
By Lewis Krauskopf
(Reuters) – Insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N: Quote, Profile, Research) stuck to a forecast for 2012 that says profits may fall, citing expectations for a rise in Americans’ use of medical services that could drive up its claim costs.
Shares of UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer by market value, fell as much as 4.2 percent after investors had hoped it would raise its forecast. The profit view overshadowed the company’s better-than-expected fourth-quarter results and pushed shares in the insurance sector lower on Thursday.
(Reuters) – UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) posted a higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, helped by increased membership across its array of health plans.
The largest U.S. health insurer by market value also backed its 2012 earnings forecast, which includes the potential for a decline in profit but which many analysts have seen as conservative. Shares rose 1.4 percent.
(Reuters) – Forest Laboratories Inc (FRX.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) posted a quarterly profit above Wall Street’s target on Tuesday, helped by increased sales of its drugs for Alzheimer’s disease, depression and hypertension.
The mid-sized U.S. drugmaker also nudged up its earnings forecast for its fiscal year, which ends in March. The company’s shares rose 3 percent.
(Reuters) – Health information website WebMD Health Corp (WBMD.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) took itself off the auction block and warned investors of lower 2012 profits as its advertisers in the drug industry pull back on spending.
Shares of WebMD, in which activist investor Carl Icahn owns a nearly 10 percent stake, tumbled 29.8 percent on the news.
(Reuters) – Eli Lilly & Co forecast a sharp plunge in profits for 2012, the first full year its top-selling Zyprexa schizophrenia treatment faces generic competition, and its shares fell as much as 3.6 percent.
Like other drugmakers, Lilly is facing patent expirations on its most important medicines, leading generic competitors to erode billions of dollars in revenue. But unlike rivals such as Pfizer Inc, Lilly is not significantly cutting spending, including on research, in order to shore up profits.
(Reuters) – Medco Health Solutions Inc’s (MHS.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) shareholders overwhelmingly approved the company’s $29 billion acquisition by rival pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts Inc (ESRX.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) as concerns ease over whether regulators will allow the deal.
The merger of the two largest U.S. managers of prescription drug benefits would create the clear leader in the field, giving the combined company even more leverage to negotiate better prices with drugstores and pharmaceutical companies.
NEW YORK (Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline Plc executive German Pasteris is in charge of an Alzheimer’s treatment that is years from reaching the market, if it ever does. But he already wants to make sure the global healthcare system will pay for it.
Pasteris is one of 25 executives appointed last year to shepherd the British drugmaker’s experimental medicines. He consults insurance companies and former officials from national health agencies about the Alzheimer’s drug on the best way to show its value to patients.