Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, speaks during a news conference with the President of the European Commission after a visit to oversee the production of the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine at U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer’s Puurs factory April 23, 2021.
Johannes Thys | AFP | Getty Images
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Tuesday laid out his plan to sustain the pharma giant’s growth into 2030 as the Covid-19 pandemic eases and the company faces generic competition for some of its blockbuster drugs.
Bourla said Pfizer expects sales to drop between $16 billion and $18 billion from 2025 to 2030 as some of its top-selling drugs go off-patent. He acknowledged some investors are skeptical about Pfizer’s future after two blockbuster years thanks to the Covid vaccine and antiviral treatment.
“We recognize that some are questioning Pfizer’s longer-term growth prospects,” Bourla told analysts during Tuesday’s third-quarter earnings call. Shares of the company rose about 3% on Tuesday after it raised its earnings guidance for 2022 in its third-quarter earnings report, which beat Wall Street expectations. “We believe that not only can we overcome these expected declines, but we can potentially generate strong growth through the end of the decade,” he said.
In a July report, Moody’s singled out five Pfizer drugs that could come under pressure from generics in the next decade. These include Eliquis for treating blood clots, Vyndaqel for cardiomyopathy, Xeljanz for rheumatoid arthritis, Ibrance for breast cancer and Xtandi for prostate cancer.
Collectively, these five drugs accounted for about 40% of Pfizer’s sales in the third quarter of this year, excluding the Covid vaccine and antiviral treatment Paxlovid.
It’s also unclear how strong the demand for the Covid vaccine and Paxlovid will be when the world hopefully emerges from the pandemic. In the third quarter of this year, the vaccine and antiviral treatment accounted for 52% of Pfizer’s total sales.
Bourla told analysts that Pfizer plans to add $25 billion to the company’s sales by 2030 through recent acquisitions and the development of its own drug and vaccine pipeline. He highlighted three areas of focus – respiratory syncytial virus, migraine and ulcerative colitis.
Pfizer’s RSV vaccine candidates for older adults and infants have the potential to generate billions in revenue, Bourla said. His vaccine for people aged 60 and over was 85% effective in preventing serious lower respiratory tract infections. And the infant vaccine, given to mothers late in pregnancy, was 81% effective in preventing serious illness in the baby’s first 90 days of life.
Bourla said the vaccine to protect newborns could hit the market in late 2023 or early 2024. It would be the only RSV vaccine in the US that protects infants by giving the mother the shot, he said. According to Bourla, the RSV vaccine for older adults could also hit the market in the same period.
“RSV is an area of significant unmet need, particularly in older adults and infants,” he said. “We believe we have the potential to be leaders in this space and have a real impact on public health.”
Pfizer also plans to build the world’s best portfolio of migraine drugs through its recent acquisition of Biohaven Pharmaceuticals, Bourla said. His migraine drug portfolio could reach peak revenues of more than $6 billion, he said. In the US alone, more than 40 million people suffer from migraines.
Pfizer’s purchase of Arena Pharmaceuticals and its ulcerative colitis drug candidate could also generate billions in revenue, Bourla said. Ulcerative colitis is a debilitating inflammatory bowel disease that affects one million people in the United States
There is high demand for treatments and Pfizer expects the market to grow 50% over the next five years, Bourla said. The drug etrasimod could hit the U.S. market in the second half of 2023, subject to regulatory approval, Bourla said.
Pfizer bought four companies for a total of more than $24 billion this year alone. The drugs these acquisitions bring should take Pfizer about a third of the way toward its 2030 sales target, Bourla said.
Acquisitions include Arena and Biohaven, Global Blood Therapeutics and ReViral. Global Blood Therapeutics makes Oxbryta, a drug for sickle cell disease. ReViral is developing antiviral treatments for RSV.
Pfizer also has 15 internally developed drugs and vaccines that it expects to launch over the next 18 months. According to Bourla, they have the potential to generate $20 billion in revenue by 2030.
And Pfizer expects its Covid vaccine and antiviral treatment to continue generating multibillion-dollar sales for years to come, said David Denton, Pfizer’s chief financial officer.
“This is going to be something like persistent flu, but actually more deadly than the flu,” Denton said on the conference call. “So I think the products that Pfizer is developing can be very relevant from both a vaccine and therapeutic perspective for many years to come.”