Already Lifted by Generic Prozac, Barr Labs Is Ready to Make Cipro

If authorized, the drugmaker says in its earnings report that it could start making generic Cipro in weeks.
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Updated from 10:28 a.m. EDT

Barr Laboratories

(BRL)

is anything but depressed over its generic Prozac sales, and it's ready to make generic Cipro if the government asks.

Addressing the bioterrorism issue that's on everyone's mind these days, Barr's CEO Bruce Downey said during a quarterly conference call Tuesday that the company has received tentative approval from the Food and Drug Administration to manufacture a generic form of the antibiotic Cipro, if the drug is needed. Barr is one of a half-dozen drug firms in the same position, but Downey stressed that a decision to make the drug will have to come from government officials or

Bayer

(BAYZY)

, the German drugmaker who holds the patent on Cipro.

"We are ready and willing to produce

Cipro if an emergency arises," he said on the company's conference call. "If authorized, we could be in production in two or three weeks, and by the first of the year, 30 million to 40 million tablets per month could be produced."

Barr already has an agreement with Bayer to produce generic Cipro when the patent on the drug expires in July 2003.

In its financial report, the Pomona, N.Y.-based drugmaker said fiscal first-quarter earnings jumped more than six times to $67.1 million, or $1.80 a share, compared with earnings of $10.4 million, or 28 cents a share in the year-ago quarter.

The reason: Surging sales of generic Prozac, which Barr began selling Aug. 2, totaled $175 million in the quarter. That accounted for more than half of the company's $315.3 million in total revenue for the fiscal first quarter.

Analysts were expecting Barr earnings of $1.77 a share in the fiscal first quarter, according to Thomson Financial/First Call. On Oct. 4, Barr raised earnings guidance for the quarter to the range of $1.75 a share to $1.80 a share.

Barr won a long legal battle with Prozac maker

Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Report

and now has a six-month exclusive window to sell 20-mg capsules of the antidepressant, the most widely prescribed version of the drug. It's estimated that Lilly lost more than 80% of its Prozac market share when Barr's version of the drug hit pharmacy shelves, mainly because insurance companies and HMOs insisted that patients switch to the cheaper version.

In recent trading, Barr was down $1.32, or 1.5%, to $86.08.