Pfizer antiviral usage is ticking up in the US as uptake of Merck, AZ drugs remains limited

Pfizer’s pandemic dominance isn’t limited to its mRNA vaccine Comirnaty, as evinced by the latest stats on coronavirus therapeutic usage from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The data, updated week by week, show recent uptake of Pfizer’s oral antiviral Paxlovid has greatly eclipsed that of treatments from Merck & Co., Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca.

Over the past week, more than 162,000 Paxlovid courses were administered around the country, Endpoints News first reported, citing the latest numbers from HHS. As of May 24, more than 831,000 Paxlovid courses had been used by people living in the U.S. Over that stretch, the federal government has made about 3.8 million cumulative Paxlovid doses available to states, of which some 2.4 million courses have been ordered.

Taking the past seven days out of the equation, meanwhile, nearly 670,000 courses of the antiviral pill had been given to U.S. patients over the period between Dec. 17, 2021, and May 17, 2022. That averages out to some 33,000 courses administered per week since the drug’s market debut, HHS previously reported.

While usage of Pfizer’s therapeutic is ticking up, other COVID-19 therapeutics are struggling to catch on. A slim 20,000 courses of Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics’ molnupiravir, also known as Lagevrio, were administered in the past week. Further, only about 13% of the U.S.’ total inventory of the med has been used to date, Endpoints noted. For comparison, some 35% of Paxlovid’s overall inventory has been ordered thus far, with most of those orders placed within the last several months.

As for AstraZeneca’s protective antibody Evusheld, just 16,000 courses were administered in the last week. About 38% of all Evusheld ordered by states has been given to patients so far, HHS said.

Concerning Lilly’s monoclonal antibody bebtelovimab, meanwhile, some 100,000 courses have been administered of 379,526 ordered.

Despite earlier reports of lagging Paxlovid demand, use of the antiviral seems to be getting a boost this month, courtesy of increased HHS outreach plus the Biden administration’s Test to Treat initiative, which tees up Paxlovid use with a positive test at participating pharmacies.

Despite reports of low demand, Pfizer recently stuck by its 2022 Paxlovid sales forecast of $22 billion. With another $32 billion expected to come from its BioNTech-partnered vaccine, the New York Big Pharma is telegraphing potential revenues between $98 billion and $102 billion in 2022.

After its December launch in the U.S., Paxlovid reaped $1.5 billion in sales for the first three months of the new year, Pfizer said in early May. Around the same time, Cantor Fitzgerald analysts wrote to clients that the drug’s peak sales potential remains largely “under-appreciated.”

Separately, Paxlovid recently won the support of drug-cost watchdog Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER). The organization determined that both Paxlovid and Merck and Ridgeback’s molnupiravir carry reasonable prices—but that’s not to say the drugs’ benefits are equal.

An ICER committee voted 11-2 that the evidence on molnupiravir was insufficient to demonstrate a net health benefit over symptomatic care alone, while Paxlovid won all panelists’ favor with 13 votes.