Pfizer inks $5.3B Paxlovid supply deal with US, adding to its huge pandemic revenue haul

Pfizer, already flush with revenue from its BioNTech-partnered COVID-19 vaccine, has officially locked up a deal to sell its coronavirus antiviral hopeful to the U.S. for several billion dollars.

The U.S. will pay $5.29 billion for 10 million courses of Pfizer's investigational antiviral Paxlovid, provided it passes muster at the FDA. Under the deal, Pfizer would start delivering doses this year and wrap up in 2022, the company said Thursday.

The move comes just two days after Pfizer said it was seeking emergency use authorization for its oral treatment. Meanwhile, the company has forged a voluntary license agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool to bolster access to the drug in low- and middle-income countries.

While Pfizer was first out of the gate with a vaccine supply deal with the U.S., its antiviral agreement trails a similar pact by Merck. The U.S. recently locked up 3.1 million courses of Merck and Ridgeback's oral therapy molnupiravir for $2.2 billion. It has also shelled out billions on monoclonal antibodies from Eli Lilly, Regeneron and GlaxoSmithKline-Vir Biotechnology.

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Pfizer, for its part, is already sitting on a massive pile of cash from its wildly successful COVID-19 vaccine. As of 2021's third quarter, Pfizer has reeled in more than $24 billion in global sales of Comirnaty. At the last tally, Pfizer executives said the company expects to generate a staggering $36 billion in pandemic vaccine sales this year.

As for Paxlovid, the antiviral triumphed in a phase 2/3 study this summer. The drug slashed the risk of COVID-19 related hospitalization or death from any cause by 89% versus placebo within three days of symptom onset. Just 0.8% of patients on Paxlovid were hospitalized through Day 28 of the study, compared with 7% of patients in the placebo arm.

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Pfizer says it has started to invest up to $1 billion to shore up manufacturing and distribution of its antiviral hopeful. Next year, sales of Paxlovid could clock in at somewhere in the range of $15 billion to $25 billion, Barclays Equity Research analysts wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.

The prediction assumed that the U.S. would pay between $300 and $500 per Paxlovid course and that more than 90% of doses would be distributed. At $5.29 billion for 10 million courses, the U.S. is paying about $529 per treatment.