Sanford Bernstein downgraded
to market perform Wednesday, expressing doubts about its long-term ability to maintain the current price of its cholesterol drug Lipitor.
The research shop noted that Lipitor is currently about 40% more expensive than
Crestor, and estimated that once Crestor starts making serious volume inroads, it will probably force Pfizer into more competitive pricing.
Sanford Bernstein said that if Pfizer were to cut Lipitor's price to match Crestor's today, it would cut the drug's sales by about 12% and lower Pfizer's per-share earnings by 10 cents. While such a radical move isn't likely, the price discrepancy led Bernstein to cut its 2004 earnings estimate to $2.03 from $2.09 a share.
"Crestor's price polarizes outcomes for Pfizer," the analyst wrote. "If Crestor fails, great, but if it succeeds, Pfizer's forced to cut Lipitor's price, amplifying the effect on Pfizer's earnings -- there's very little middle ground, if any."
Pfizer was recently down 42 cents, or 1.2%, to $34.72.