Even after sharp sales drop, Pfizer sees bright side with priority review voucher from Paxlovid approval

In a change of pace from the recent COVID-related business struggles for Pfizer, the drugmaker has picked up a valuable reward from the FDA in the form of a priority review voucher (PRV).

The agency doled out the PRV after determining that Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid meets the bar for classification as a medical countermeasure to a material threat, according to a notice (PDF) in the Federal Register. Paxlovid won its full FDA approval about one year ago.

Such vouchers, an extra incentive for developing treatments against diseases with high unmet need, have proven to be quite lucrative. Companies can either use them to speed up high-stakes drug reviews at the FDA or sell them to other drug developers.

A 2020 study found that 17 of the 31 PRVs awarded between 2009 and 2019 were sold for anywhere between $67 million and $350 million. Vaccine maker Valneva, for example, recently sold the PRV it received for commercializing the first vaccine to protect against mosquito-borne virus chikungunya, Ixchiq, to an unknown buyer for $103 million.

Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its plans for the PRV.

However Pfizer opts to use it, the PRV will surely come in handy. After a sharp drop in COVID-19 sales last year, the company is now underway with two large cost-cutting campaigns.

In a new effort, unveiled this week, Pfizer said it aims to realize $1.5 billion in savings by the end of 2027. Before that, the company was working through an "enterprise-wide" initiative to save $4 billion annually by the end of 2024.

The downsizing has so far been linked with hundreds of job cuts across the U.S. as well as in Ireland and the U.K.