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Pfizer reported quarterly earnings Tuesday.

BRENDAN MCDERMID/Reuters

Pfizer Inc reported a higher-than-expected third-quarter profit on Tuesday on increased sales of cancer drug Ibrance and a strong launch of new heart medicine Vyndaqel, prompting the largest U.S. drugmaker to lift its earnings forecast for the year.

Pfizer raised its 2019 adjusted earnings forecast to $2.94 to $3.00 per share from its prior estimate of $2.76 to $2.86, and its shares rose 3.6 per cent. Analysts on average were expecting $2.82, according to Refinitiv IBES.

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla, on a conference call, also raised the 2019 revenue growth forecast for the company’s Upjohn unit in China to “mid-to-high single digits” from an earlier view of low-to-mid single digits, even as it prepares to spin off that business.

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The New York-based drugmaker announced in July it would separate the Upjohn unit, which sells off-patent branded drugs, and combine it with generic drugmaker Mylan NV, allowing Pfizer to focus on its more profitable newer medicines.

Mylan will be able to leverage a strong base in Asia through Upjohn, whose headquarters Pfizer had shifted to China, a prime market for the older branded drugs with high name recognition such as Lipitor. Mylan shares rose 2.8 per cent to $19.51.

Bourla said he envisions Pfizer as a “smaller, science-based company” following close of the Mylan deal, expected next year.

While sales of breast cancer drug Ibrance rose 25 per cent to $1.28 billion rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz had a sales jump of nearly 39 per cent to $599 million, the performance of Vyndaqel out of the gate was an eye opener.

The drug, chemically known as tafamidis which was approved in May, brought in sales of $156 million, nearly double the Wall Street estimate of $82 million.

“Ibrance is back to strong growth after a period of slowing,” said UBS analyst Navin Jacob, adding that “the Vyndaqel number in particular is impressive.”

Priced at $225,000 per year, Vyndaqel’s high cost has faced criticism. Experts affiliated with Boston-based Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) said it could become among the most costly cardiovascular treatments ever.

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Investor sentiment on Pfizer has been poor since it announced the deal with Mylan, making the third-quarter beat a relief, Jacob said.

Excluding special items, Pfizer earned 75 cents per share, topping analysts’ average estimate by 13 cents.

Total revenue fell about 5 per cent to $12.68 billion as sales of pain treatment Lyrica, which now faces generic competition in the United States, fell by more than half to $527 million.

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