Abbott Q2: Niaspan Sales Are a Bright Spot in a Lumpy Quarter

Last Updated Jul 15, 2009 2:03 PM EDT

As Abbott Labs reported a Q2 2009 sales increase of 2.5% to $7.5 billion it is becoming clear that the effect of foreign currency -- the dollar's rise against the world -- will be the defining factor for many companies this quarter. Unfavorable currency-exchange rates reduced growth by 8 percentage points, the company said. Net profit was $1.29 billion, down from $1.32 billion.

J&J yesterday said its results were hurt by currency headwinds.

Sales of Humira rose 20 percent to $1.3 billion; the company said the impact of J&J's launch of Simponi was modest. Forbes noted that Credit Suisse doesn't believe Humira will reach Abbott's goal of $9 billion a year.

Depakote followed the usual trajectory of drugs facing generic competition: Sales plunged 80 percent.

But look at Niaspan, the little cholesterol drug that could: sales were up 6.9 percent to $208 million. That success was probably not affected by news that a trial of Niaspan v. Merck's Zetia was halted for unexplained reasons. Some have speculated that the trial showed an insurmountable benefit of Niaspan, and thus patients in the Zetia arm were switched out of it. It will be interesting to see if that effect is more pronounced in Q3.

Lastly, here's a graph of Abbott's yield in revenues per $1 spent on sales and marketing. Note how lumpy it is. If there's a trend in Abbott's operational efficiency, I ain't seeing it.