Drug and chemical maker Bayer posts loss after withdrawal of key cholesterol drug

Wednesday, November 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ Drug and chemical maker Bayer AG said Wednesday it lost $165 million in the third quarter, blaming a weak global economy and the withdrawal of cholesterol-lowering drug Lipobay after it was linked to patient deaths.

The company said increased demand for the anti-anthrax drug Cipro had boosted business, but couldn't compensate for the withdrawal of Lipobay.

Bayer's loss in the July-September period compares to a $481 million net profit in the same period the year before.

Lipobay, marketed as Baycol in some countries, was withdrawn after being linked to more than 50 deaths worldwide. It was Bayer's No. 3 drug and was expected to earn some $720 million this year.

``We are simply unable to absorb the withdrawal in August of our cholesterol-lowering drug Lipobay-Baycol and the severe downturn through the third quarter,'' chief executive Manfred Schneider said in a statement.

Schneider said demand for Cipro increased, but didn't say by how much.

Pharmaceutical analysts say Cipro will have a negligible affect on Bayer's bottom line, since the U.S. patent runs out in December and the company stands to earn far less under a deal to sell the drug in bulk to the U.S. government than it would on normal sales to pharmacists. It has also donated 4 million tablets, the company said.

The Lipobay withdrawal raised the possibility that Leverkusen-based Bayer might sell its pharmaceuticals business to focus instead on polymers, agricultural products and industrial chemicals.

But Schneider on Tuesday reiterated the company's intention to hang on to its drug business. ``Our goal is to create a leading health care company,'' he said in a statement.