Pharmaceutical Pfizer Inc. said an oral drug to treat COVID-19 could be available by the end of 2021.
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Pfizer on Tuesday reported first-quarter revenue and adjusted earnings that beat Wall Street expectations, despite a decline in sales attributed to lower demand for the company’s Covid vaccine.
The pharma giant’s stock closed slightly lower at $39.06 on Tuesday. Shares are down more than 23% year-to-date through Tuesday’s close, putting the company’s market value at around $220.47 billion.
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Here’s what Pfizer reported versus Wall Street expectations, based on a poll of analysts by Refinitiv:
- Earnings per share: $1.23 adjusted vs. 98 cents expected
- Revenue: $18.28 billion versus $16.59 billion expected
Pfizer’s net income of $5.54 billion, or 97 cents a share, fell from $7.86 billion, or $1.37 a share, in the year-ago quarter.
The company reported revenue of $18.28 billion in the first quarter, down 29% from the same period last year.
Covid-related sales contributed $7.1 billion to that number. Pfizer posted $3 million in Covid vaccine revenue and $4 million in sales of its Covid antiviral pill Paxlovid.
Looking ahead, the New York-based company kept its 2023 revenue guidance of $67 billion to $71 billion. Pfizer also reiterated its full-year adjusted earnings guidance of $3.25 to $3.45 per share.
However, Pfizer continues to expect Covid-related sales to decline this year. The company reiterated its forecast of $13.5 billion in 2023 Covid vaccine sales and $8 billion in revenue for Paxlovid.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said during the earnings call that the company expects 2023 to be a “transition year” for Covid sales as the U.S. pivots to the commercial market for Covid products.
Covid vaccine, Paxlovid sales
Quarterly sales of the company’s Covid vaccine fell $10 billion, or 75%, compared to the same period last year, mostly due to lower contracted supplies and weaker demand in international markets, Pfizer said.
Shipments contracted by the US government slowed as the nation prepared to move Covid products to the commercial market later this year, the company said.
Paxlovid sales increased $2.8 billion year-over-year on new launches in certain international markets and strong demand in China due to rising Covid cases. Sales were also boosted by final deliveries related to a US contract secured in late December.
Paxlovid first entered the US market with emergency use approval in late December 2021. Pfizer hopes to get full Food and Drug Administration approval for the drug this year, but still expects 2023 sales to fall 58% year over year.
Bourla said Pfizer expects higher uptake of Paxlovid after this year.
“We then expect that in 2024 and beyond, the courses sold and consumed will be more closely aligned,” he said.
The company also expects U.S. uptake of its Covid vaccine to decline this year and into 2024, Bourla said.
However, the CEO noted that Pfizer expects vaccination rates to recover beginning in 2025 and “continue into 2026 and beyond” provided the company successfully rolls out multiple Covid combination vaccine treatments.
Bourla said the company expects a similar trend outside the US, with some variance in certain countries.
Excluding sales of Covid products, Pfizer said sales were up 5% in the first quarter from the same period a year ago.
That growth was driven by products from recently acquired companies, including Biohaven Pharmaceutical’s migraine drug Nurtec ODT and Global Blood Therapeutics’ sickle cell disease drug Oxbryta, which contributed $167 million and $71 million, respectively.
The company said the surge was also due to strong sales of drugs like sulperazon, an antibiotic used to treat urinary tract infections, and blood thinner Eliquis.
Pfizer also said it expects sales growth of 7% to 9% this year, excluding sales of Covid products.
Bourla said that’s because the majority of the company’s near-term product launches are expected to occur in the second half of this year. The company expects to launch 19 vaccines and treatments over the next 18 months, he noted.
“As such, we expect our non-Covid revenue to grow faster in the second half of the year than the first,” Bourla said during the earnings call.
Pfizer and other drug companies like Modern And Johnson&Johnson have braced themselves for a sharp drop in Covid-related sales this year as the world emerges from the pandemic and relies less on blockbuster vaccines and treatments for the virus.
But Pfizer is pinning its hopes on mergers and acquisitions and a record-breaking pipeline to help the company navigate its post-pandemic boom.
That pipeline includes Pfizer’s RSV vaccine for use in older adults, which could receive FDA approval later this month. It also includes the company’s new pediatric pneumococcal vaccine and an ulcerative colitis drug from recently acquired Arena Pharmaceuticals.
Pfizer also said last year that it plans to hit $25 billion in sales through deals by 2030.
In March, the company took a big step toward that goal with its $43 billion acquisition of Seagen, which Pfizer said could add more than $10 billion in risk-adjusted sales from its cancer therapies by 2030.
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