it is already laying the groundwork for what the pharmaceutical giant will look like when revenue from its huge COVID-19 vaccine and treatment franchise starts to decline.
The company on Tuesday reiterated its expectation that Comirnaty, the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with BioNTech BNTX,
is scheduled to generate $32 billion in revenue in 2022. Paxlovid, the revolutionary COVID-19 antiviral that received Food and Drug Administration approval in December, is expected to generate $22 billion in sales this year.
Because these projections are based on contracts signed in mid-April, they could change, particularly for Paxlovid, as COVID-19 infections rise.
“People are tired after three years of living very different and difficult lives,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told MarketWatch. “So, it is clear that we will start to see more and more waves. When people wear masks, when they don’t have to give guarantees that they are vaccinated or not, there will be waves. I don’t know if that will happen in the fall or it will happen at another time in the US because it has surprised us. But it will happen.”
Comirnaty’s $13.3 billion in revenue in the first quarter far exceeded Wall Street expectations (FactSet consensus was $10.5 billion), but that means roughly 41% of Pfizer’s projected sales for Comirnaty this year came from in the first three months of the year.
That is “a clear sign of a slowdown in the vaccine end market and directly in conflict with the ‘weighted average’ revenue path for the year implied by [Moderna] management of its franchise,” SVB Securities analyst Mani Foroohar told investors on Wednesday.
Instead, leadership has forecast the bulk of its COVID-19 vaccine sales to occur in the second half of the year, timed for a fall booster campaign in the Western Hemisphere. (Moderna on Wednesday reported $5.9 billion in sales of its COVID-19 vaccine in the first quarter and projects $21.0 billion in total sales for the vaccine in 2022.)
If Wall Street thinks the COVID-19 vaccine market is declining, that could further explain why Pfizer, which has cash flow, is feeling acquisitive. The company has already spent around $7bn on deals in the past six months, with plans for more deals.
Pfizer just closed on its $6.7 billion acquisition of Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. That deal gives Pfizer ownership of an experimental ulcerative colitis drug that recently reported impressive top-line data from a Phase 3 clinical trial. that we have the best in its class,” said Bourla). The company then said last month that it will buy ReViral Ltd., a private company that develops therapies for respiratory syncytial virus, for up to $525 million.
“We continue to expect many more transactions from Pfizer in the next two years as management works to boost its portfolio of projects and products,” Mizuho Securities analyst Vamil Divan told investors.
That is a sentiment reinforced by Bourla himself.
“We get innovation also from abroad and then we develop it internally,” said Bourla. “We strongly believe that the company that would become the partner of choice for biotech is the company that will deliver the next breakthroughs.”
Still, that doesn’t mean Pfizer is done trying to improve its COVID-19 franchise. Bourla notes that the company is trying to figure out how to reduce the size and number of Paxlovid pills patients have to take. Currently, a Paxlovid prescription requires patients to take three pills every day during the five-day treatment course.
Pfizer shares are down 16.8% year-to-date, while the broader S&P 500 SPX,
has dropped by 12.4%.
An earlier version of the story incorrectly described the ReViral deal. It is worth up to $525 million.