Pfizer sticks to guns on $22B Paxlovid sales despite reports of lagging demand

Paxlovid’s first-quarter revenue haul may look slim, but plenty more sales are on the way in the next three months, Pfizer executives said on an earnings call Tuesday. The Big Pharma said its COVID-19 oral antiviral, Paxlovid, could soon get a boost from contracts in China and Europe.

Pfizer posted (PDF) $25.7 billion in revenues for the first three months of 2022. Taking the pandemic haul from BioNTech-partnered vaccine Comirnaty and oral antiviral Paxlovid out of the equation, operational revenue increased 2%, the company said in an earnings release Tuesday. With the COVID assets, growth was a whopping 82%. 

Pfizer stuck by its full-year revenue forecast, predicting $98 billion to $102 billion in sales. Of that sum, the company still figures Comirnaty will contribute $32 billion, while Paxlovid will chip in roughly $22 billion.

Comirnaty, for its part, generated $13.2 billion in direct sales, driven in part by global uptake of pediatric and booster doses, the company noted in a release.

Paxlovid, meanwhile, reaped $1.5 billion in sales for the quarter. The med launched in the U.S. in December 2021.

There have been anecdotal reports of faltering demand for the pill, but Paxlovid’s peak sales potential remains largely “under-appreciated,” Cantor Fitzgerald analysts wrote in a note to clients earlier this week.

While Pfizer kept many details close to the vest on its quarterly earnings call Tuesday, the company hinted the med could get a boost from some near-term sales opportunities in Europe and China. Meanwhile, the drug will at some point become a commercial prospect in the U.S.

As for the company’s “two-pronged” approach in Europe, Pfizer has bilateral agreements that have been secured or are “about to be secured” in many countries, Angela Hwang, Pfizer’s group president of biopharmaceuticals, said on a call with analysts.

At the same time, the company is also eyeing an “EU-level contract,” Hwang said, suggesting more info would be coming soon.

Elsewhere, in China, Pfizer is working with local distributor Meheco to ensure access to the drug, though it can’t disclose financial terms or deal volumes, Hwang said.

As for when Paxlovid could transition to a traditional commercial model in the U.S., the company plans to file its application for a full approval “quite soon,” likely within the first half of the year, Mikael Dolsten, M.D., Ph.D., Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, said on the call.

A full approval would go a long way toward boosting education and access around Paxlovid, Dolsten added.

Through the end of March, Pfizer cranked out more than 6 million Paxlovid treatment courses, “all of which have been shipped,” CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D., said.

Because the financial calendar quarter for international markets ends in February, and the majority of Pfizer’s Paxlovid courses were produced in March, “only a small portion of these shipments were recorded in our first quarter revenues,” the helmsman explained, adding that the company as of Tuesday had now shipped roughly 8 million Paxlovid courses.

Pfizer remains on track to produce 24 million courses in the second quarter for a total of 30 million in the first half of the year, Bourla said.

The U.S. recently stepped in with plans to purchase 20 million Paxlovid courses as well as to help manufacture and supply the pills.