Pfizer Sales Soar on Covid-19 Vaccine Sales

Pfizer Sales Soar on Covid-19 Vaccine Sales

Pfizer Inc.

PFE 1.97%

expects demand for its Covid-19 antiviral drug to increase as governments return to replenish their supplies and seek to thwart surges as the pandemic virus continues to evolve.

The treatment, a pill called Paxlovid, brought in $1.5 billion in sales during Pfizer’s first quarter, while its vaccine totaled $13.2 billion, reflecting the need for tools to combat the virus despite a slowdown in cases and a growing sense of life trying to return to normal.

The company said Tuesday it is on track to deliver between $98 billion and $102 billion in revenue for the year, with $32 billion coming from its Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty and $22 billion from Paxlovid.

“We remain bullish on Paxlovid” said Chief Financial Officer

Frank D’Amelio

on a call discussing earnings with analysts. “The rhythm of that product looks very good.”

Pfizer’s quarterly sales soared 77% to $25.7 billion, driven by sales of pandemic products, and was higher than analysts expected, according to FactSet.

Pfizer’s strong pandemic sales follow reports last week by


MRK -0.63%

& Co. and

Eli Lilly

LLY -0.51%

& Co. of strong sales growth tied to their Covid-19 treatments, reflecting the continuing need by governments to treat patients as new variants spread.

Pfizer’s vaccine, which it developed with

BioNTech SE,

BNTX 2.18%

already ranks among the most-used shots in the world. Now Paxlovid is gaining more traction, in part as other Covid-19 treatments don’t hold up against the Omicron variant and subvariants. Pfizer expects to strike more purchase agreements with governments for Paxlovid, as the coronavirus continues to evolve and infections jump across the world.

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Initial Paxlovid supplies were limited, and Pfizer has increased manufacturing of the drug. Pfizer has shipped about 8 million courses of Paxlovid so far, and the company is still targeting production of 30 million courses by the end of June and 120 million for the year.

Some countries that received Paxlovid but have seen a jump in cases have already returned seeking more supply, according to Pfizer. Demand could also increase in the summer after people hold large events in the summer or during the fall ahead of flu season, Pfizer Chief Executive

Albert Bourla

said on the call.

In the U.S., Paxlovid has overtaken a rival Covid antiviral pill from Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, called Lagevrio, with market share of Paxlovid doubling to about 90% from late January, according to Pfizer, citing prescription data.

While the Biden administration has helped increase Paxlovid access, the drug’s availability is a fraction of where it could be, said Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals President

Angela Hwang.

She said Pfizer is limited in its ability to promote the drug in the U.S. to physicians and the public, since it is only authorized on an emergency basis and lacks full approval, leaving much of the education of the drug to governments. “This doesn’t look anything like what we would typically do if we had a full commercial launch,” she said.

Paxlovid was cleared for use in December by U.S. health regulators to treat people 12 years and older early in the course of their disease who are at high risk of developing severe Covid-19. The drug is now authorized for use in more than 60 countries, according to Pfizer.

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The treatment consists of two components, nirmatrelvir and a widely used generic antiviral, and is taken twice daily for five days.

Pfizer is also studying Paxlovid in low risk patients and children and plans to start a study in people with weakened immune systems. Paxlovid failed in a study to prevent symptomatic infections in adults who had been exposed to the pandemic virus.

Pfizer is advancing next-generation Covid shots, including a vaccine that aims at protecting against infections or severe disease for at least a year, as well as one that targets both the Omicron strain and the initial strain, Dr. Bourla said in an interview. He said Pfizer has already manufactured doses of an Omicron-based vaccine, and is waiting to hear from U.S. regulators on whether shots for a fall vaccination campaign should be bivalent or monovalent.

Pfizer also expects to submit data evaluating three doses of its vaccine in children 6 months to 5 years old as early as late May. After the initial two-dose series was found to not work well against the Omicron variant, researchers began studying a third dose.

Shares of Pfizer were up 2.3% in midday trading.

In the first quarter, sales of its pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar swelled 22% to $1.6 billion thanks to strong retail stocking and government purchases of the pediatric version. Revenue from breast-cancer drug Ibrance was down slightly to $1.2 billion, while blood thinner Eliquis sales grew 9% to about $1.8 billion.

The company said it is on track to deliver between $98 billion and $102 billion in revenue for the year, with about half of that coming from its pandemic products. Deal making remains key to Pfizer, and the company should also have funds potentially for expanding manufacturing, issuing dividends and doing share buybacks, Dr. Bourla said in the interview.

“I feel very comfortable that we will be able to deliver on what we promised,” he said.

The company’s net income rose to $7.86 billion for the quarter, up from $4.88 billion last year, while earnings per share rose 59% to $1.37. Stripping out one-time items, adjusted earnings climbed 72% to $1.62 a share. Analysts polled by FactSet had been expecting $1.49 a share.

Despite the strong results, Pfizer trimmed its 2022 earnings forecast, reflecting an accounting-policy change that starts including all acquired in-process research and development expenses. It now expects per-share earnings between $6.25 and $6.45 a share, down 10 cents on each end of the range in its prior forecast.

Write to Jared S. Hopkins at [email protected]

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

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