Has AstraZeneca Fallen Off the Patent Cliff?

The patent cliff — the expiration of patents on blockbuster pharmaceuticals — cost drug manufacturers $36 billion in 2012 and will decrease sales by an estimated $25 billion this year.

Fourth quarter results from AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) and Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) showed the extent that generic competition has deeply hurt their profitability.

London-based AstraZeneca reported quarterly earnings on Thursday of $1.56 per share. While the results beat the expectations of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters by 21 cents, the company’s core earnings fell 3 percent from the year-ago quarter. The pharmaceutical company only avoided a much larger drop by lowering costs and securing a favorable tax adjustment. Its drop in sales was much worse than the decrease in earnings; they declined 16 percent to $7.28 billion, but beat analysts’ estimates of $7.20 billion…

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