The news didn't bother Michael Krensavage of Raymond James, who told clients that he was keeping a strong buy rating. Even though third-quarter revenue fell by 5%, that was a smaller decline than Krensavage had predicted.

And while Pfizer's third-quarter profit was 51 cents, excluding items, that was 4 cents better than Krensavage had forecast. He doesn't own shares, but his firm says it expects to receive or intends to seek investment-banking compensation from companies mentioned in its research reports.

Meanwhile, James Kelly of Goldman Sachs says his estimates are under review. His research note says he still has an outperform rating on Pfizer. He doesn't own shares, and his firm has had an investment banking relationship with the company.

The Cholesterol Connection

Part of the problem is Lipitor, the anti-cholesterol drug whose U.S. revenue rose just 1% in the quarter due to "an unexpectedly rapid slowdown in the U.S. lipid-lowering market as a whole and marginal Lipitor prescription share erosion during the quarter of one percentage point," the company said.

The company said the rate of growth in new prescriptions in the overall lipid-reducing market was 8% in the third quarter, down from 17% in the first half of the year. Pfizer said its drug still commands 40% of all lipid-lowering prescriptions, well above any competitor.

"We believe that Lipitor is poised for further growth fueled by newly emergent outcomes data, which once again confirm Lipitor's outstanding ability to reduce morbidity associated with cardiovascular disease," Pfizer said. "We believe that these new data will support renewed growth for Lipitor. These data will also be prominently featured in upcoming physician and consumer branded and unbranded promotion beginning this quarter."

Lipitor's foreign-market sales came to the rescue, adding 14% for the quarter. Worldwide Lipitor sales rose 6% to $2.9 billion.

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