Pfizer is on the hunt for new blockbuster drugs, backed by its COVID assets

For drug manufacturers PfizerA fortune accumulated from the COVID pandemic is now paving the way to nirvana: a billion-dollar weight loss drug.

The company has raised nearly $100 billion from the sale of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to U.S. taxpayers and foreign governments. With that success, they plan to get richer, pouring cash into the development and marketing of potential blockbusters for conditions like migraines, ulcerative colitis, prostate cancer. , sickle cell disease and obesity.

It just announced that it will triple or even quadruple the price of its COVID vaccine once it hits the commercial market next year. Meanwhile, the company is overwhelming doctors and pharmacists—and consumers—With the promotion of his drug Paxlovid COVID.

“Pfizer is a remarkable marketing machine. Timothy Calkins, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

The federal government is helping Pfizer market, urge people to get boosters targeting omicron variants, although the original data was mixed in Do the photos work better? compared to the previous version. But even as sales of the COVID vaccine fell 66% in the last quarter, the company made about $4.4 billion in those three months. Pfizer has ample cash flow to fund its future. COVID has been great for business.

The company was most excited – judging from messages to investors – about two experimental diabetes pills, “me too” drugs in a class known as GLP-1 agonists. As Pfizer competitors have discovered, they double as weight loss pills. In one testmore than half of the obese patients took high doses Eli Lilly and Co. injections lost one-fifth of their body weight – the result has increased levels of the drug as a dietary aid in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and other social niches where cost doesn’t matter and always skinny.

Wall Street analysts are predicting such massive demand for these drugs that Pfizer “could find a foothold there by marketing” if its version works, although it will take at least two years since license, Mohit Bansal, a Wells Fargo analyst. By 2035, Lilly drug alone could make $100 billion a year for its formula, according to a Bank of the United States analysis.

Pfizer still sees COVID as a ‘billion dollar franchise’ in the long term, Chief Financial Officer David Denton told an earnings call on November 1because COVID “will be like a flu, a long-lasting flu, but actually more deadly than the flu.”

The company announced on October 20 that it will charge a one-time fee of $110 to $130 when government contracts expire next year, more than double what investors expected. According to Zaid Rizvi, a researcher with the advocacy group Public Citizen, the US government paid $30.50 per shot in its latest contract with Pfizer.

CEO Albert Bourla told investors that Pfizer was a good citizen at keeping prices down during the worst of the pandemic. Now, payers will incur additional costs, while consumers “do not see a difference” because there is generally no copay for vaccines.

However, unless the new spikes are dangerous enough to scare many, Wall Street analysts expect sales to slow, as the public loses interest, Republican politicians don’t. encouragement of booster injections and continued concern about rare heart damage in young people. Pfizer said in July it had made “a $450 million write-off inventory related to COVID-19 products that “have exceeded the “approved shelf life”. And Moderna on November 3 descends predict sales for its COVID vaccine.

Geoff Meacham, an analyst at Bank of America. “If you have two mRNAs and one enhancer, you are pretty well protected. Do you need it every year? “

Declining interest in COVID products prompts investors to push Pfizer to show where it could generate revenue for its three best-selling products — breast cancer drug Ibrance, arthritis drug rheumatoid arthritis Xeljanz and Eliquis, a blood thinner — whose patent ran out this decade.

While conducting its own research, Pfizer has strengthened its growth portfolio over the past two years by acquiring companies that have developed promising drugs. The company expects these purchases and its own work to bring it $25 billion in new annual revenue by 2030.

Meanwhile, the company has treated investors $25 billion in dividends over the past three years and spent $9 billion to boost stock prices with share buybacks.

All this is due to the huge profits from its COVID products, which have allowed Pfizer to overtake Johnson & Johnson as the biggest revenue generator in the industry so far in 2022. Between the end of 2020 and September, Pfizer earned about $80 billion from the sale of 3.8 billion COVID and Paxlovid vaccines, and the company expects an additional $15 billion. for the rest of this year. Until recently, investors had predicted that number would drop to around $11 billion per year by 2026, but Pfizer’s recent commercial valuation announcement has increased that number, potentially. up to $3 billion, according to a Wells Fargo analysis.

However, “from an investor’s perspective, the focus is not on COVID so much at this point. The focus is on what do they do with this money and expertise? ” said Bansal, and how to “use it to grow their core business.”

To develop that core, Pfizer has since last year acquired several midsize companies with promising or licensed drugs. It spent 11.6 billion dollars for Biohaven, whose migraine drug Nurtec ODT brought in $324 million in the first half of 2022. Pfizer predicts up to $6 billion in annual drug sales.

Their hopes are also high for Oxbryta, a sickle cell anemia drug manufactured by Global Blood Therapeutics, Pfizer bought for $5.4 billion. Costing $125,000 a year, this drug, increase oxygen levels in patients, made $100 million in the first two quarters of the year but could be worth 2.5 billion dollars year with a powerful marketing tool behind it, according to Wall Street analysts.

Dr. Mikael Dolsten, chief scientific officer, said Pfizer is strengthening its franchise in the areas of vaccines and respiratory treatments, said on the November 1 call. GSK and Moderna are the first to license a vaccine that protects older adults as well as pregnant women and their infants against RSV, a respiratory virus that overflowing children’s hospital This waterfall. The company has also released an updated version of its bacterial pneumonia vaccine, which brings $5.3 billion in 2021.

Other mRNA vaccine companies are also offering cash, but have a narrower strategy. Moderna is testing 32 vaccines against infectious diseases and the development of a long-acting injectable cancer vaccine for individuals. Pfizer’s German partnerBioNTech, the company that did most of the initial development of their COVID vaccine, has a similar focus.

Pfizer and Moderna both began advanced clinical trials this year of their first non-COVID mRNA vaccines — against influenza. If the flu season is widespread enough, tests can show whether the vaccine is better than the standard vaccine and whether one vaccine works better than the other.

Investors expect a lot from Pfizer, with 80,000 employees and $81 billion in revenue in 2021. And they are likely to get it.

Nurtec, the migraine drug it gets with Biohaven, would be a good test case. Pfizer and giants like it both have at least 2,000 marketing sales representatives for primary care physicians in the United States, Calkins said. Such an operation could cost $400 million a year, he said, far more than a company like Biohaven can afford.

Pfizer will use its marketing prowess, particularly among primary care physicians, to “build the world’s leading franchise brand,” Bourla CEO said on the call today. November 1, Bansal, a Wells Fargo analyst, says Pfizer has enough resources to flood the media with direct-to-consumer ads and negotiate with insurers and regulators. pharmacy benefits manager to make sure patients can get this and other medicines.

Evan Seigerman, a research analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said sickle cell patients are harder to reach, but Pfizer “has relationships within the hospital, thanks to them investing in commercialization” to increase Oxbryta revenue, said Evan Seigerman, research analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

Pfizer also plans to make a blockbuster of etrasimodan experimental drug against ulcerative colitis it contracted with Buy $6.7 billion by Arena Pharmaceuticals.

Pfizer’s GLP-1 formulation is key to its goals. The drug GLP-1 is similar to an intestinal peptide, or small protein, that stimulates biochemical pathways that help release insulin, reduce appetite, and reduce certain immune responses. While drugs are invented and licensed to fight Type 2 diabetes, FDA approved a some of them are also for the treatment of obesity, and companies are testing GLP-1 formulations against fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, kidney disease, congestive heart failure and even Alzheimer and Parkinson’s.

Pfizer executives said they hope to decide by 2024 which candidate drugs will be included in major clinical trials. According to Dolsten, the company found itself looking for a niche with a drug that could be taken with or without food. Most of today’s products are injectable, which causes many people to fail.

Assuming one of the drugs is licensed, marketing will do the rest.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom specializing in the production of in-depth coverage of health issues. Along with Policy Analysis and Exploration, KHN is one of the three main activities in KFF (The Kaiser Family/Organization). The KFF is a nonprofit organization privileged to provide information on health issues to the nation.

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