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Shares of

Barr Pharmaceuticals


dropped Thursday after the company said third-quarter results slipped below Wall Street estimates.

The stock lost $2.70, or 5.2%, to $48.80. By early afternoon, more than 3.3 million shares had been traded, which is more than four times the average daily trade.

The Woodcliff Lake, N.J., drugmaker earned $61.3 million, or 58 cents a share, for the three months ended March 31. For the same period last year, Barr earned $35.1 million, or 33 cents a share. These figures include one-time charges.

Excluding charges, Barr earned 61 cents for the just-completed quarter, or a penny short of the Thomson First Call consensus. Revenue fell 17% from a year ago to $265 million, about $7 million below estimates.

Barr had expected revenue to decline due to falling sales of the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin. Barr had a distribution agreement with a supplier, but once the antibiotic lost marketing exclusivity in June 2004, generic competitors chewed up Barr's sales. Ciprofloxacin produced less than $1 million in third quarter 2005 sales vs. $85 million in sales for the same period last year.

For the fourth quarter ending June 30, Barr put earnings at 73 cents to 77 cents a share, excluding one-time charges. Analysts were forecasting 72 cents a share. The company's fiscal-year EPS prediction is in a range of $2.36 to $2.40, while the Thomson First Call consensus is $2.39.

"These results are not overly concerning, but they do indicate modest erosion in the core operations," Ken Cacciatore, of SG Cowen, wrote in a research note Thursday.

During the next 18 months to 24 months, he predicts revenue and earnings growth will be "decent but not overly impressive." His firm doesn't provide stock ratings. Cacciatore doesn't own shares, but his firm says it "does and seeks to do business" with companies mentioned in research reports.

Forecast for Plan B

Bruce Downey, Barr's chairman and CEO, told analysts during a telephone conference call Thursday he was optimistic that the Food and Drug Administration would render a favorable ruling later this year on the emergency contraceptive known as Plan B.

Barr sells Plan B,

nicknamed the morning-after pill, as a prescription product. It wants to sell it without a prescription. Although an FDA advisory committee recommended in late 2003 that Plan B was safe as an over-the-counter product, the FDA overruled its advisors.

Barr has since proposed a two-pronged approach: selling Plan B over-the-counter to women 16 years and older, and selling it via prescription to younger women. The FDA continues to review this application, and Downey said Thursday he believes the agency will act once Congress approves a permanent FDA commissioner.

President Bush has nominated Dr. Lester Crawford, now acting commissioner, for the job, but the nomination has been stalled in the Senate by legislators questioning his handling of certain issues ranging from



withdrawal of the arthritis drug Vioxx to Barr's effort to expand access to Plan B.

Downey said his optimism was enhanced when Crawford testified before a Senate panel in March, Crawford said Plan B had passed scientific and medical reviews and was awaiting a legal review. If Plan B hadn't passed the first two reviews, Barr would have already received a rejection notice, Downey said.

Asked what would happen if the FDA rejected Barr's plan for Plan B, Downey said he would consider a formal challenge. "We have concentrated on a federal resolution," Downey said.

Otherwise, he added, Barr would lobby states to expand access to Plan B. Six states now permit pharmacists to prescribe emergency contraception pills without an advanced prescription from a physician.