Pfizer's Prevnar 13 dips in Q3; vaccines hold steady but fail to match peers' growth

Pfizer

After an industry analysis predicted a years-long decline for Pfizer’s superselling Prevnar 13, the New York pharma’s pneumococcal disease blocker put up quarterly sales in that very tune.

In third-quarter results released Tuesday, Pfizer reported Prevnar sales down year-over-year by 3% to $1.54 billion. That's on top of a 16% decline for the vaccine in Q2. But the vaccine was able to outperform consensus estimates of $1.48 billion in the most recent quarter.

It's a big turnabout for a product that had been roaring ahead. Last year, Prevnar 13 notched consecutive sales increases to drive Pfizer’s vaccines business up by 44% for 2015.

Prevnar's blockbuster sales are still a major contributor to Pfizer's vaccines unit--and the company overall. But for the third quarter, it was Pfizer’s other vaccines that powered the unit's growth, paltry as it was. Those products grew to $172 million on the quarter, from last year's $60 million. Overall, Pfizer's vaccines sales went up by 1%.

That 1% figure pales in comparison to other leading companies in vaccines this period. GSK turned in 20% vax growth in the third quarter, Sanofi’s vaccines sales leaped 14% and Merck jumped 27%.

Prevnar has been a victim of its own success. Because of a “high initial capture rate” in adults after 2014 backing from an influential CDC committee, the company is suffering from an “expected decline.” In September, EvaluatePharma analysts predicted the company would see 1% sales decreases for the shot through 2022, with sales that year coming in at $6 billion.

The vaccine is still turning in big sales, but the decline highlights some of the challenges Pfizer is facing for key meds, especially with its decision to discontinue development on its PCSK9 inhibitor bococizumab.

In vaccines, the company has made an effort to diversify through internal efforts and M&A. It made three vaccine buys in 11 months between July 2014 and June 2015 and is testing vaccines against S. aureus and C. diff. Plus, it’s unveiled a cancer vaccines platform and is testing a maternal vaccine against Group B Streptococcus infection.

Overall for the quarter, Pfizer reported sales that were up 8%, but earnings fell 38% on higher expenses.

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