Executive One on One: What’s Next for Pfizer & the Keys for Pfizer’s CEO

Pfizer’s $43-billion acquisition of Seagen was the deal of the year in 2023, but will it be enough for Pfizer’s Chairman & CEO Albert Bourla as the company seeks to offset declining sales for its COVID-19 products? What will be the key products for Pfizer to retain its number one industry revenue ranking in 2024?

Pfizer’s $43-billion acquisition of Seagen was the deal of the year in 2023, but will it be enough for Pfizer’s Chairman & CEO Albert Bourla as the company seeks to offset declining sales for its COVID-19 products? What will be the key products for Pfizer to retain its number one industry revenue ranking in 2024?

Changing fortunes for Pfizer
A key issue for Pfizer in 2023 has been the drop in revenues for its COVID-19 products, its COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, and oral treatment for COVID-19, Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir), which drove a 41% operational decrease in third-quarter 2023 revenues. The decline in these products contributed to an overall revenue decline of 42% for the first nine months of 2023, which saw revenues fall from $76 billion in the first nine months of 2022 to $44 billion for the first months of 2023. Its changing fortunes lead Pfizer to launch an enterprise-wide cost realignment program earlier this year (2023) that is expected to deliver annual net cost savings of at least $4.0 billion by the end of 2024, according to an updated full-year 2024 financial guidance issued this week (December 13, 2023) by the company.

Overall, Pfizer expects revenues of $58.0 billion to $61.0 billion in 2023, which would still keep Pfizer as the number one bio/pharmaceutical company based on revenues, but which would be down from its latest full-year results in 2022, in which full-year revenues reflected unprecedented revenue. Pfizer had a record-breaking year in 2022, setting a high-mark in revenues for both itself and the industry as a whole. The company posted revenues of $100.3 billion in 2022, a 23% revenue gain compared to 2021, and far surpassing its 2021 revenues of $81.3 billion, which had set a record for revenues for Pfizer and the industry in 2021. The principal drivers of growth for the company in 2022 were its COVID-19 products: its COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, and its COVID-19 drug, Paxlovid. Combined, these products accounted for $56.7 billion in revenues, or 57% of Pfizer’s 2022 total revenues. Revenues for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty was $37.8 billion in 2022, and 2022 revenues for its COVID-19 drug, Paxlovid, was $18.9 billion. The nearly $57 billion in revenues for these two products alone were comparable to or exceeded the individual annual revenues of the top five bio/pharmaceuticals companies in 2021.

With the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic, revenues for its COVID-19 products are expected to fall as are overall revenues for Pfizer in 2023 comparative to its record-breaking performance in 2022. In its third-quarter 2023 financial results released on October 31, 2023, Pfizer said that it expected revenues of its COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, to be approximately $11.5 billion, down 70% from 2022 results and revenues of Paxlovid, its oral COVID-19 drug, to be approximately $1 billion, down 95% from 2022 results. For 2023, Pfizer expects full-year 2023 non-COVID operational revenue growth of 6% to 8% compared to 2022 and overall revenues of $58.0 billion to $61.0 billion for the full-year 2023, which would keep the company as the number bio/pharma company based on revenues.

Outlook for 2024
For next year (2024), Pfizer expects its non-COVID-19 revenues to increase but expects a continuing decline in sales from its COVID-19 products. In its full-year 2024 financial guidance issued this week (December 13, 2023), the  company said it anticipates approximately $8 billion in combined revenues for its COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, and Paxlovid, its oral COVID-19 drug. Overall, Pfizer expects to achieve full-year 2024 operational revenue growth of 3% to 5% and full-year 2024 revenues of $58.5 to $61.5 billion, Excluding excluding Comirnaty and Paxlovid, the company expects operational growth of 8% to 10% in 2024, which includes the impact of Seagen, the bio/pharmaceutical company recently acquired by Pfizer for $43 billion. Earlier this week (December 14, 2023), Pfizer announced that it had completed its $43-billion acquisition of Seagen (formerly Seattle Genetics), a Bothell, Washington-based bio/pharmaceutical company specializing in antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) and drugs for oncology. The acquisition was announced in March 2023. In its full-year 2024 financial guidance, Pfizer says it expects Seagen to contribute approximately $3.1 billion in revenues in 2024.

Seagen’s portfolio includes four approved medicines that are indicated across solid tumors and hematologic malignancies, including three ADCs: Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin), Padcev (enfortumab vedotin), and Tivdak (tisotumab vedotin). The company also commercializes Tukysa (tucatinib), which was approved earlier this year (January 2023) for treating certain types of colorectal cancer in combination with trastuzumab. Clinical development programs are ongoing for each of these medicines for potential new tumor types or expanded indications in earlier lines of therapy, with catalysts expected annually through 2027. 

With the addition of Seagen, Pfizer’s oncology pipeline has doubled in size with 60 programs spanning multiple modalities, including ADCs, small molecules, bispecifics, and other immunotherapies. Pfizer’s oncology portfolio now includes over 25 approved medicines and biosimilars across more than 40 indications, including nine medicines that are either blockbuster (defined as sales of $1 billion or move) or have the potential to be blockbuster.

“Pfizer’s product portfolio remains strong. In 2024, Comirnaty and Paxlovid are expected to deliver combined revenues of approximately $8 billion and our remaining portfolio of combined Pfizer and Seagen products is expected to achieve year-over-year operational revenue growth in the range of 8% to 10%, said Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, in a December 13, 2023, company statement in commenting on the company’s full-year 2024 guidance. “In addition, we expect our cost-realignment program to deliver savings of at least $4.0 billion by the end of 2024, which puts us on a path to potentially regain our pre-pandemic operating margins.”

Pfizer’s revenue drivers
The question for Pfizer then is with declining sales for its COVID-19 products, which products will be key revenue drivers for Pfizer in 2024. Looking at the company’s latest full-year results from 2022 (full-year 2023 results will be reported in January 2024), Pfizer had 10 blockbuster products (defined as products with sales of $1 billion). Revenues of $37.8 billion for its COVID-19 vaccine and $18.9 billion for its COVID-19 drug, Paxlovidf, were the largest revenue-generating products for Pfizer in 2022 and far outpaced revenues for its other blockbuster products. Its two next highest revenue-generators in 2022 were Eliquis (apixaban), an anticoagulant developed with Bristol-Myers Squibb with 2022 global revenues of $6.48 billion. and the anti-cancer drug, Ibrance (palbociclib) with 2022 global revenues of $5.12 billion.For the first nine months of 2023, Eliquis was a top revenue product with global sales of $5.135 billion as was Ibrance, which posted revenues of $3.635 billion in the first nine months of 2023.  The company’s Prevnar vaccines also were top revenue producers with revenues of $4.835 billion for the first nine months of 2023.   

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