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Pfizer boosts 2022 COVID vaccine forecast, looks to pivot with deals, new drugs

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

Pfizer Inc. on Tuesday raised its forecast for 2022 sales of its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine by $2 billion to $34 billion, and said new deals and drugs in development should help replace future declining vaccine sales and lost revenue from patent expirations. 

The US drugmaker’s shares rose 2.7% to $47.84 as its third-quarter profit beat estimates, mainly due to higher-than-expected sales of the vaccine it shares with German partner BioNTech. 

The upbeat earnings also sent shares of rival COVID-19 vaccine makers higher. Novavax Inc. and Moderna Inc. were up roughly 2% each. 

Sales of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID vaccine are down from pandemic highs as many countries have neared the end of their primary vaccination campaigns. There are also concerns about soft demand for newly updated booster shots. 

In response, Pfizer hopes to roughly quadruple the price of the vaccine in the United States once the government stops buying doses and sales shift to the private market. 

Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in an interview that the company is trying to showcase what a “post-COVID crisis” Pfizer will look like. 

COVID-19 treatments and vaccines will be multibillion-dollar franchises, he said, “but that will be stable, not with ups and downs. And the growth will be driven by the pipeline and the business development.” 

Pfizer is expected to face the loss of patent protections for some key drugs between 2025 and 2030. The company has turned to deals such as its recent $5.4 billion acquisition of Global Blood Therapeutics Inc. and its $11.6 billion purchase of Biohaven to beef up its pipeline of future products. 

Mr. Bourla said the company’s internal pipeline should help replace lost growth from COVID sales and patent expirations, pointing to 19 products the company hopes to launch over the next 18 months that he said could deliver some $20 billion in annual revenue. These include treatments for ulcerative colitis and migraines, as well as its vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). 

The company said its experimental RSV vaccine was found to be effective in a late-stage study in preventing severe infections in infants when given to expectant mothers. 

BMO Capital Markets analyst Evan Seigerman said some investors will point to the massive COVID vaccine beat as unsustainable, however, “we’re not yet throwing in the towel given an emerging pipeline and significant balance sheet flexibility.” 

Third-quarter sales of the COVID vaccine came in at $4.40 billion, blowing past estimates of $2.60 billion. 

However, $7.51 billion in sales of Paxlovid, the company’s COVID-19 antiviral treatment, fell short of estimates of $7.66 billion. 

Pfizer reported adjusted earnings of $1.78 per share in the third quarter, beating analysts’ estimates by 39 cents. — Reuters

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