JPM23: Pfizer entering the 'most important' 18-month stretch in company history, CEO says

Pfizer was among the drugmakers most elevated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and, going forward, the pharma giant has no plans to give up on its current momentum. 

Speaking this week at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D., laid out scenarios (PDF) that could take the drugmaker to $84 billion—or $70 billion in a less optimistic case—in non-COVID revenues in 2030.  

That’d be a huge increase from 2020, when the drugmaker pulled down $41.9 billion globally. Of course, Pfizer’s trajectory changed after the company launched its massively successful COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty and its antiviral Paxlovid. 

To reach those 2030 revenue goals, the company is entering “the most important 18 months in the history of Pfizer,” Bourla said Monday. That’s because the company is planning 19 drug launches or label expansions over the next year and a half.  

Those launches, in total, should generate $20 billion in sales by 2030, Bourla said. The group includes an RSV vaccine, elranatamab in multiple myeloma, ritlecitinib in alopecia areata and many other products. 

Beyond those launches expected over the next 18 months, Bourla touted a pipeline of drugs expected to reach markets after the second half of 2024. Those include a much-anticipated oral GLP-1 drug, a gene therapy portfolio and several vaccines. 

Aside from internal R&D efforts, Pfizer plans to find $25 billion in 2030 revenues through external business development. The company struck multiple midsized buyouts in 2022—including the purchases of Biohaven’s migraine franchise and sickle cell disease player Global Blood Therapeutics—and plans plenty more dealmaking, the CEO said. 

Still, Bourla said he'll avoid a pharma megamerger because it’s “not good for the company right now,” he said. But deals for biotechs of various sizes are on the table. In fact, Bourla said he expects a “portfolio” of deals to meet the company’s dealmaking goals. 

On the flip side of this growth outlook, Pfizer needs to overcome $17 billion in patent expirations later this decade, Bourla acknowledged. From 2024 to 2027, Pfizer expects to lose U.S. exclusivity for popular blood thinner Eliquis, immunology med Xeljanz, rare disease med Vynadaqel, plus cancer drugs Ibrance, Inlyta and Xtandi.  

Bourla presented his Pfizer roadmap at an important time for the drugmaker. Thanks to the launches of Comirnaty and Paxlovid, Pfizer grew extremely quickly in the last two years. These lucrative products also provided Pfizer with the cash to strike deals and grow its own internal capabilities. 

Moving forward, Bourla expects Pfizer’s COVID business to continue generating significant sales, noting that the virus won’t go away anytime soon. 

COVID-19 infection “creates very short-lasting immunity,” the CEO said Monday, noting that people can “get the same strain after 6 months.” With this considered, Bourla said Pfizer’s scientists expect the disease to be around “for the years to come.”  

Looking ahead, the CEO said he expects U.S. COVID-19 vaccination rates to stabilize at lower levels than seen during the initial vaccine rollouts. These low vaccination rates will cause more severe disease during future waves of infection, which should drive demand for treatments like Paxlovid, Bourla said.