updated 4/19/2006 8:27:50 AM ET 2006-04-19T12:27:50

Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drug company, said Wednesday that its first quarter profit soared compared with results a year ago that were depressed by two major charges.

Pfizer earned $4.1 billion, or 56 cents a share, for the January-March period compared with $301 million, or 4 cents a share, a year ago.

Excluding one-time items, the maker of Lipitor for high cholesterol and Zoloft for depression earned 61 cents a share, beating the 53 cents a share prediction of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Those items include charges related to Pfizer’s acquisition of Pharmacia, costs associated with Pfizer’s restructuring plan and a lower than expected tax rate.

Revenues fell 3 percent to $12.7 billion from $13.1 billion a year earlier.

Sales of Lipitor, the world’s best selling drug, were essentially flat at $3.1 billion, and Pfizer said in a release that was below its expectaions. Wall Street has been concerned about Lipitor sales because this summer Zocor, a competing cholesterol drug from Merck & Co., will lose its patent protection. Analysts fear managed care companies will move Lipitor patients to the cheaper generic version of Zocor.

During the first quarter of 2005, Pfizer took a $766 million charge for with drawing its pain reliever Bextra from the market and a $2.2 billion charge for tax expenses associated with the planned repatriation of profits made overseas.

Pfizer shares rose 32 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $25.25 in premarket trading.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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