GlaxoSmithKline's 'much-needed' Shingrix rebound has yet to materialize, analysts say

Jefferies has sliced its third-quarter sales estimate for GlaxoSmithKline's Shingrix. But the analysts still believe the shingles vaccine is poised for a major rebound. (GSK)

After the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a slowdown for GlaxoSmithKline's shingles vaccine Shingrix, the company is counting on a rebound to help drive its financial performance in the second half of the year. Except the shot has yet to stage its comeback, Jefferies analysts wrote this week.

After looking at weekly prescription trends, the analysts wrote that the "much-needed boost in Shingrix U.S. scripts has yet to materialise," for the U.K. drugmaker. The analysts trimmed their third-quarter sales estimate for the vaccine 12% to  £432 million ($596 million).

So far, third-quarter 2021 prescriptions in the U.S. are tracking lower than during the same period in 2019 and growing slower than last year's third quarter, the Jefferies team wrote. Further, demand could be affected going into the final quarter of the year if U.S. officials approve and prioritize COVID-19 boosters.

The Jefferies team plans to continue looking at prescription trends and assumes that Shingrix demand will pick up in the fourth quarter, they wrote to clients.

With the pandemic interrupting normal vaccination schedules, GSK's key shot has felt the pinch. In the first quarter of this year, sales crashed 47% from the same period in 2020. In the second quarter, GSK reported sales of £295 million ($409 million) for Shingrix, well short of the consensus estimates of £331 million ($459 million).  

RELATED: GlaxoSmithKline plans to ‘relaunch’ Shingrix after the pandemic decimated sales

As countries come out of the pandemic, GSK has said it plans to "relaunch" the key product in a bid to drive growth. The company is in a transitional phase, separating itself from its consumer health business while ramping up its vaccine profile. GSK is counting on "high-single-digit" growth in vaccines over the next five years, execs said this summer.

Shingrix will have to bear the brunt of that projection as the company projects a doubling of Shingrix sales by 2026. To help make that happen, GSK plans to introduce the vaccine in more than 35 countries around the world. Complicating those plans, of course, is the pandemic. 

In the long run, the analysts aren't concerned about the ability of the shingles vaccine to eventually stage a post-pandemic rebound.

RELATED: As GlaxoSmithKline works to get Shingrix back on track, an FDA approval increases the key vaccine's reach  

Meanwhile, GSK is also testing co-administered vaccines, pairing Shingrix with authorized COVID-19 shots. The company expects data from that study to be ready in the fourth quarter.

It’s a long way from the pre-pandemic days when Shingrix was in such high demand that the company couldn’t produce it fast enough. That shortfall has been remedied as GSK has expanded its capacity, executives said this summer.