Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the world's largest manufacturer of generic drugs on Tuesday reported a 9 percent increase in fourth quarter profits helped by strong sales of its multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone and the launch of other new generics. "It was a record-breaking year for us. Copaxone was our first blockbuster and it will not be the last," said Teva's chief executive officer Israel Makov. The Jerusalem-based company, which published its last financial report before its $7.6 billion merger with Ivax last month, reported that net profit for the fourth quarter of 2005 climbed to $305 million, or 45 cents per share, representing increases of 9% and 10%, respectively, over the same period in 2004. "On earnings per share Teva beat the consensus estimate, which was between 43 cents and our 44 cents forecast," said Yisca Erez, analyst at Clal Finance Batucha. "The higher EPS was supported by strong sales from Copaxone, the Allegra generic version launched in the third quarter, and the generic versions of Zithromax and Oxycontin launched in the fourth quarter." Net sales for the fourth quarter of 2005 increased 6% over the comparable quarter last year to $1.4 billion, which was slightly below the consensus analysts' estimate of $1.42b. For the full year, Teva recorded a net profit of $1.07b. or $1.59 per share, on net sales of NIS 5.3b. Global in-market sales of Teva's multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone reached a high of $323m. in the fourth quarter, representing an increase of 24% over the comparable quarter of 2004. For the full year of 2005, global in-market sales of Copaxone reached $1.176m representing an increase of 26% over 2004. Another contributor to Teva's strong results was a lower tax rate of 18% for 2005 compared with an annual estimated tax rate of 19.6% provided three months ago. The tax rate in the fourth quarter was 13.7%. Teva's US generic pipeline, including products acquired through the Ivax acquisition, currently comprises 160 product applications, including 38 tentative approvals relating to products with total branded sales of $94b. Of these product applications, 88 have been submitted to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Of those 88, 49, with total branded sales of $37b., are expected to be designated "first to file," which would provide Teva with periods of 180 days of marketing exclusivity. "There is a significant par between Teva's potential exclusivity pipeline presented today and the one Teva presented last quarter," said analysts at IBI. "In the last quarter, on the verge of the closure of the IVAX merger, Teva's pipeline comprised 145 product applications with total branded sales of $97b., of which 39 with total branded sales of $25b. were classified as potential 'first-file' product applications."