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Pfizer's Chantix Is "Smokin'" Again

I had planned to blog about the nearly unanimous bearish analyst commentary this morning after Genentech's earnings report yesterday. The biotech giant beat on earnings per share, but came up short on Street expectations for sales of its top four drugs. DNA shares are under pressure again today.

The next potential mover of the stock is more than a month away. February 23rd is the "action date" for the Food and Drug Administration to decide whether to approve Genentech's Avastin as the first line of defense for breast cancer that has spread. But the 23rd is a Saturday. So, look for the decision to come down on Friday the 22nd or Monday the 25th. It could also come down anytime between now and then.

I also considered writing more about the Merck and Schering Plough ENHANCE studyon their cholesterol drug Vytorin and how some analysts are out with more research notes to clients this morning claiming yesterday's negative stock reaction to the news was overdone.

But then I came across a research note in my inbox from Goldman Sachs big pharma analyst Jim Kelly. It's a weekly dispatch that he sends to clients with updates on prescription trends. What caught my eye was his front page bullet, "Chantix (PFE): Early signs of the 'New Years (sic) resolution' effect."

Kelly reports that total prescriptions in the first week of the year for the stop-smoking pill were more than 167,000. "This level is roughly equivalent with the average level of weekly prescriptions reported in the four weeks prior to reports of potential psychiatric side effects in November.

Prescriptions trended lower through year end as a result of these concerns, but the jump in the latest week of data suggests that we still may see a significant positive." Chantix is one of the few bright spots at Pfizer these days, so if the apparent increase in Chantix prescriptions is not a New Year's resolution blip--like people who join a gym and then stop going by the end of February--the company could see renewed upside from the drug.

We could get some color on it when Pfizer reports earnings and holds a conference call on January 23rd.

Goldman Sachs gets the prescription data from IMS Health . GS has banked PFE and wants to do it again. It also makes a market in the stock.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com
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