- Pfizer on Tuesday forecast a steep drop in sales of its COVID-19 treatments this year, a deceleration that could cause revenues to plummet by about a third from the record $100 billion the company earned in 2022.
- Pfizer expects sales of its COVID vaccine Comirnaty, which reached nearly $38 billion in 2022, to fall to around $14 billion in 2023, the company said in its quarterly earnings announcement. Pfizer predicts sales of its antiviral drug Paxlovid to total $8 billion this year, versus about $19 billion in 2022.
- The significant revenue adjustments reflect a coming transition in the U.S. to private market sales of both products, which have previously been sold in bulk through government contracts. Pfizer is also anticipating lower uptake of Comirnaty than last year, though it still believes nearly a quarter of the U.S. population will get a COVID shot in 2023.
Comirnaty and Paxlovid are among the fastest-selling medicines in the pharmaceutical industry’s history. They rapidly became blockbuster products as governments clamored for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, and Pfizer reaped the financial rewards.
On a conference call Tuesday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla referred to the next 12 months as a “transition year,” as COVID-related revenue hits what he described as a “low point.” Government stockpiles will likely run out in the second half of 2023, when Pfizer expects to start selling Comirnaty “through commercial channels at commercial prices,” Bourla said.
Once that shift occurs, Pfizer does expect sales to begin growing again. That’s partly because of the company’s plans to increase the per-dose price in the private market to between $110 and $130, more than four times the priced implied by U.S. government supply contracts. Pfizer also claims that annual vaccination rates, expected to drop to around 24% of the U.S. population in 2023, will stabilize and climb thereafter because of the development of a two-pronged shot for COVID-19 and flu.
With partner BioNTech, Pfizer is one of a few companies developing such a shot. It sees uptake of those vaccines reaching 30% of the U.S. population in 2025 and around 40% the following year — in line with current flu vaccines — with the company getting about two thirds of the market, the company said.
In the meantime, Pfizer is anticipating a steady rise in symptomatic COVID infections amid lower vaccine uptake and waning immunity from previous shots, Bourla said. That could lead to greater use of oral antivirals like Paxlovid, which were only used to treat about 12% of symptomatic patients last year. Pfizer estimated that number could rise to 17% in 2023 and up to 22% in 2026 as “awareness, education” and new drugs reach the market, Bourla said.
Paxlovid significantly missed consensus estimates for the fourth quarter, bringing in about $2 billion compared to the roughly $5 billion projected by analysts. The guidance Pfizer laid out for the year for Comirnaty and Paxlovid was similarly billions of dollars short of what Wall Street had expected. The projections are "disappointing," wrote SVB Securities analyst David Risinger, in a note to clients on Tuesday.
Shares for the company ticked up marginally after recovering from declines of more than 1% in the morning.