Prevnar's 2015 sales surged to $6B-plus on new CDC nod in adults

After a monster year, the "low-hanging fruit" is gone for Pfizer's ($PFE) Prevnar 13 as the company looks to penetrate the adult market in the U.S. But fear not, investors, execs said Tuesday--there's plenty left in Europe.

The world's best-selling vaccine has already achieved 86% share in its home market, Albert Bourla, the drugmaker's head of its vaccines, oncology and consumer health unit, said on Pfizer's Q4 conference call--and 90% of healthcare providers know about the CDC's recommendation for universal use in adults over the age of 65. The result?

"Of the 45 million adults eligible at the time of recommendation for vaccination, we have already captured about a third of them," Bourla said.

Pfizer CEO Ian Read

That slice of the pie was enough to help Pfizer rake in $6.2 billion on the jab last year, capped off with a fourth-quarter sales jump of 102% year-over-year. And CEO Ian Read promised a follow-up performance this year, noting that "we believe that Prevnar adult global revenues will be comparable to the strong results we achieved in 2015."

It's where those revenues come from that'll be different this year for the New York drugmaker, Bourla said. The remaining U.S. cohort of eligible adults "is more difficult to capture," meaning the task "will require more innovative strategies." And even if the company achieves a similar or better penetration rate in this year than it did last year, it'll be within a much smaller pool of patients, he pointed out.

Luckily for Pfizer, it expects "this will be mitigated by Europe," which, as Bourla highlighted, "has a very different growth profile." Though prices there are much lower than they are in the U.S., there's a much larger group of eligible adults to draw from, and the pharma giant is working to snag favorable reimbursement recommendations from authorities across the continent.

Even with the big haul it expects from Prevnar, though, Pfizer issued a revenue forecast that disappointed analysts. It expects to generate $49 billion to $51 billion this year, falling short of the $52.4 billion Wall Street predicted.

- read the call transcript

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