Pfizer Inc.'s earnings soared in the first quarter because of solid pharmaceutical revenues and gains on businesses sold last year. But analysts expressed concern Tuesday that revenue from Pfizer's star drugs didn't grow as much as in previous quarters_ and in some cases declined in the United States, the world's biggest pharmaceutical market.

Meanwhile, Eli Lilly & Co. said one-time charges led to a 35 percent decline in its earnings for the first three months of the year. Its results excluding one-time items beat analysts' expectations, however.

Pfizer Inc.

The world's largest drug company said first quarter earnings more than doubled to $4.67 billion, or 76 cents a share, in the January-March period from $1.96 billion, or 31 cents a share, a year earlier.

The results include a gain of $2.2 billion, or 36 cents a share, from the sale of the Adams Confectionery and Schick-Wilkinson Sword products businesses as well as two product lines.

Excluding one-time gains, Pfizer reported earnings of 45 cents a share, beating by a penny the expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Revenue grew 10 percent to $8.53 billion as many of Pfizer's top selling drugs continued to perform well. Sales of cholesterol-lowering medicine Lipitor rose 13 percent to $2.1 billion while revenues of impotence pill Viagra advanced 13 percent to $475 million.

However, Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Richard Evans noted in the United State's Lipitor sales advanced only 6 percent while revenues from antihypertension treatment Norvasc and anti-depressant Zoloft actually declined.

``There was weakening demand in the quarter,'' said Evans. ``You look at that sales trend and you think you better buckle up for the ride.''

There has been an overall slowdown in prescription growth in the pharmaceutical industry that has been difficult to explain. During a conference call, Pfizer chairman Henry McKinnell said he didn't know what was causing it but speculated that the war, the economy, the weather, and Canadian imports could all be factors. But he expressed optimism that the situation would change.

``Pharmaceutical markets will grow far into the future,'' said McKinnell.

Evans also questioned Pfizer's decision to exclude its purchase of $255 million worth of new intellectual property as a special charge that would not effect earnings. That purchase could have taken four cents away from earnings, said Evans.

``As a drug company you are always buying new intellectual property. It is what you do,'' said Evans.

Yet, Evans says Pfizer is still a stand out in the pharmaceutical industry for its ability to deliver consistent earnings growth. This year's performance will be helped by its acquisition of Pharmacia Corp., which was announced last summer and completed last week. Pfizer said it will squeeze $2.5 billion in savings from the deal over three years.

In trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Pfizer shares rosew 22 cents cents to close at $31.82.

Eli Lilly & Co.

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly reported net income of $407 million, or 38 cents per share, for the January-March period, down from $629 million, or 58 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding one-time items, Lilly earned 61 cents per share, beating expectations of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call by 3 cents per share.

Lilly reported quarterly sales increased 13 percent to $2.9 billion from $2.6 billion a year earlier with double-digit growth for the company's top five drugs. The growth also was bolstered by initial sales of three recently introduced products.

The results reflected $354 million in one-time charges. The largest was a $187 million charge from disappointing results in a partnership with San Diego-based Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. to develop new treatments using antisense inhibitors to target cancer cell growth at the genetic level.

Lilly also took a $115 million charge reflecting a decrease in the value of its manufacturing assets, and a $53 million charge for a voluntary severance program that cut Lilly's work force by 700 employees last year.

Last quarter's one-time expenses were offset by strong sales growth for Lilly's top drugs, including the top-selling anti-psychotic Zyprexa (17 percent increase), diabetes care products (26 percent), the cancer drug Gemzar (18 percent) and the osteoporosis treatment Evista (20 percent).

Initial sales of Strattera, to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, reached $55 million. The drug hit the market in January.

``Our first-quarter performance will enable us during the remainder of this year to make even greater investments to optimize the recent product launches and prepare for the launches of up to four other new products by the end of 2004,'' said Sidney Taurel, Lilly's chairman, president and chief executive.

For next quarter, Lilly forecasts earnings of 59 to 61 cents per share, excluding one-time items, with full-year earnings expectations of $2.50 to $2.60 per share.

``Lilly showed some decent top line (revenue) growth,'' said Bernstein's Evans. ``Step by step this company is looking better.''

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call expected earnings of 60 cents a share for the second quarter and $2.54 a share for the year.

Lilly shares rose $1.82, or 3.1 percent, to close at $61.29 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Associated Press Business Writer Mark Jewell contributed to this report.

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On the Net:

http://www.pfizer.com

http://www.lilly.com