Vaccine sales power Pfizer through first quarter
Pfizer, buoyed by a huge jump in sales for its COVID-19 vaccine and solid performance across most of the company, is hiking its 2021 financial forecast sharply after blowing past Wall Street expectations for the first quarter.
The New York drugmaker and its German partner on the vaccine, BioNTech, continue to sign contracts with multiple countries for their two-dose shot. They reported US$3.46 billion in first-quarter sales and now expect to rake in roughly US$26 billion over the year, up from their prior forecast of about US$15 billion.
The companies may soon receive United States and EU approval to give the vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds and continue testing the vaccine in other patient groups, including pregnant women and children from six months to 11 years old.
The partners are also testing the efficacy of a booster shot of the vaccine, which may be needed – perhaps annually – to keep immunity high over time and to protect people from numerous emerging coronavirus variants that may spread more easily or be more deadly. And they’re developing new vaccine versions that have a longer shelf life and don’t require being kept frozen.
Pfizer on Tuesday reported net income of US$4.88 billion, or 86 cents per share. That was up from US$3.36 billion, or 60 cents per share, in 2020’s first quarter, when the global coronavirus pandemic began triggering lockdowns, and doctor visits and new prescriptions for other medicines dropped significantly.
Adjusted earnings, excluding one-time items, jumped 48 per cent to US$5.26 billion, or 93 cents per share, far above the 79 cents Wall Street was expecting, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research. Revenue was US$14.58 billion, also easily exceeding forecasts of US$13.49 billion.
The maker of the blockbuster Prevnar vaccine against pneumococcal disease said even without COVID-19 vaccine sales, it is meeting its goal of increasing revenue by at least 6 per cent each year through 2025.
“Excluding the growth provided from (the vaccine), our revenues grew 8 per cent operationally,” Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in a prepared statement, adding, “In addition, we have achieved important clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones across our pipeline and portfolio while also continuing to increase our capacity to supply urgently needed doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Pfizer now expects to be able to deliver about 2.5 billion vaccine doses this year and already has signed contracts covering about 1.6 billion of those doses, including 200 million doses promised for the US by the end of May and another 100 million doses later this year.
The company also has begun testing a pill to treat COVID-19.
Meanwhile, sales of cancer drugs jumped 18 per cent in the quarter and sales of medicines administered in hospitals rebounded 11 per cent as patients got treatments delayed by hesitance to go to hospitals swamped with COVID-19 patients. Sales of clot preventer Eliquis jumped 26 per cent to US$1.64 billion.
During the quarter, the US Food and Drug Administration approved an additional use for Pfizer’s immunoglobulin drug Panzyga, for treating a rare condition that damages peripheral nerves. The FDA also approved use of the company’s Lorbrena as an initial treatment for non-small cell one cancer.
Pfizer noted the FDA is now reviewing its application for its experimental vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis, for people as young as age 1.
And while an updated version of its vaccine against pneumococcal disease awaits regulatory approval, Pfizer has begun testing the safety of administering that vaccine at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine booster.
Pfizer now expects full-year earnings in the range of US$3.55 to US$3.65 per share, up from US$3.10 to US$3.20 per share in February, and revenue in the range of US$70.5 billion to US$72.5 billion, up from US$59.4 billion to US$61.4 billion in the February forecast.