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Jan. 22: Two, Too Much to Cover

"Monday, Monday, can't trust that day." - The Mamas & The Papas

As we get into the thick of earnings season, next Monday is shaping up to be a big news day for big pharma.

Before the bell Pfizer will put out its press release with its 2006 and fourth-quarter numbers. Then, at 1 p.m. ET the company is holding an analyst meeting in midtown Manhattan where "The Wall Street Journal" reports Pfizer will announce more job cuts and other changes in the way it does business. Many analysts expect the world's biggest drug company to set the template for the other major drug companies. I put in a request to interview Chairman and CEO Jeff Kindler sometime that day (he hasn't talked to us since torcetrapib got scuttled), but a company spokesman told me this morning Kindler won't be doing any TV. He will have a press conference after the meeting, but the Pfizer spokesman tells me TV cameras will not be allowed. Print reporters can bring their tape recorders and pens and paper, but we can't bring the essential tool we need to do our job. Pfizer is holding the meeting at a popular corporate conference auditorium in New York City, but reporters will be corralled across the street in a hotel conference room to watch and listen to the presentation on closed-circuit TV.

Meantime, in lower Manhattan the patent trial over Bristol-Myers Squibb's blockbuster bloodthinner Plavix gets underway on Monday morning. The privately-held Canadian drug company Apotex is challenging the patent after flooding the market last year with generic Plavix that is just now beginning to deplete. Even though the judge who will decide the case has indicated in an earlier ruling that he's leaning toward Bristol and its Plavix partner Sanofi-Aventis, many analysts believe with a final decision hanging in the balance (possibly not until the middle of this year) that a potential Bristol acquirer won't touch the company with a 10-foot pole.

And, finally, opening arguments are set for Monday morning in the two-in-one Vioxx trial in Atlantic City. At first the judge indicated she'd like to try as many as 10 Vioxx cases at once this time to try to speed things along, but last Friday she cut it down to just two. One of them is a retrial of a case Merck had won. The other involves the family of a man who died of a heart attack after taking Vioxx. This is the second time Judge Carol Higbee has tried two cases at once. And, once again, it features plaintiffs' lawyer Mark Lanier. The reduction in simultaneous cases is seen as a victory for Merck which opposes trials being lumped together, arguing that each and every case is different and that doing several at a time would only confuse a jury. Plaintiffs' lawyers counter that jurors are intelligent enough to distinguish one plaintiff from the other.

"Monday, Monday won't go away. Monday, Monday it's here to stay." - The Mamas & The Papas.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com