- Pfizer on Tuesday reported first quarter revenue that beat Wall Street forecasts despite declining by more than one-fourth compared to the same period in 2022 due to plummeting sales of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.
- Sales of the COVID antiviral Paxlovid, at $4 billion for the quarter, were substantially higher than analysts expected, although the total was tied to the timing of the final delivery under a U.S. supply contract. CFO David Denton told investors that 2023 will be a “transitional” year as Paxlovid distribution shifts from government purchasing to commercial insurance.
- Executives affirmed guidance of 7% growth in non-COVID revenues for the full year, higher than the 5% growth in the first quarter. Hitting that target will require successful new drug launches, such as for a respiratory syncytial virus vaccine now under regulatory review and an experimental multiple myeloma treatment. Investors are also looking for better performance from drugs bought via dealmaking, such as the migraine pill Nurtec.
The revenue windfall Pfizer gained from its COVID vaccine and Paxlovid has diminished as the pandemic has gone on. Investors, once laser-focused on the pharmaceutical company’s coronavirus work, are now paying closer attention to what else the company can do to sustain its momentum.
Newly launched drugs as well as those nearing market will play a big role, executives said in a conference call Tuesday. The majority “are expected to occur in the second half of the year, following regulatory approvals where not yet secured,” CEO Albert Bourla said. “As such, we expect our non-COVID revenues to grow at a faster rate in the second half of the year than in the first.”
Pfizer has launched a new, 20-strain version of its pneumococcal shot Prevnar, for which it received Food and Drug Administration approval in infants and children last week, and expects to soon win an OK for its RSV vaccine in older adults and pregnant women. RSV could be a competitive market, with GSK due an FDA decision on its vaccine in older adults by Wednesday.
A competitive market also will await its nearest new launch in cancer, the biologic drug elranatamab. That product, if approved, will treat multiple myeloma, but rival Johnson & Johnson has already launched a drug in this class, called Tecvayli. And in ulcerative colitis, Pfizer’s new drug etrasimod, if approved, will trail by several years a drug from the same class, Bristol Myers Squibb’s Zeposia.
Etrasimod joined Pfizer’s pipeline through its $6.7 billion buyout of Arena Pharmaceuticals in 2021. Dealmaking also brought in Nurtec, from Pfizer’s $11.6 billion buyout of Biohaven, and the sickle cell disease drug Oxbryta, which came with the company’s $5.4 billion takeout of Global Blood Therapeutics.
First quarter sales of both Nurtec and Oxbryta disappointed analysts, at $167 million and $71 million, respectively. Those numbers missed analysts’ expected marks by 26% and 9%, respectively, Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat wrote in a note to clients.
Shares in Pfizer fell by 1% by mid-day Tuesday.