With sales team sidelined by COVID-19, Pfizer braces for a Q2 revenue hit

With a looming spinoff of its underperforming Upjohn generics business, Pfizer is working to get its branded drug unit in shape to strike out on its own. But with the novel coronavirus pandemic hamstringing its sales team, Pfizer might be due for a world of hurt in the coming quarter. 

Because of disruptions from the novel coronavirus pandemic, Pfizer's marketing and sales teams have had limited access to physicians, which could lead to a slowdown in new prescriptions––and a sales hit––in the second quarter, CEO Albert Bourla told analysts during an earnings call Tuesday.

Pfizer expects that new prescriptions for a range of its products will decline as patients continue avoiding in-office physician visits, Bourla said. Drugs administered by infusion or elective procedure are expected to be hit especially hard in the short term.

Some of Pfizer's bestsellers, however––including Eliquis and Ibrance, both oral formulations––are in better shape to weather the pandemic's effects.

Either way, Pfizer hopes the sales hit will only be a momentary blip. If the pandemic eases in the second half of the year, sales could well make up for earlier losses.

"We don’t see this as revenue that will be lost forever, but deferred revenue that will be recouped as the pandemic eases," Bourla said. 

And though its sales team remains compromised in the short term, Pfizer says it hasn't seen any "significant" hits to its manufacturing facilities or supply chain. All 49 of Pfizer's production sites are running "at or near" full capacity, and the drugmaker has leveraged new air transport capacity to accommodate inventory shipping, the company said in a release. 

That manufacturing strength will be of immense value as Pfizer works with its partner BioNTech to hustle a COVID-19 vaccine candidate through human trials in the coming months and potentially start production by year-end. 

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