USA — Pfizer has faced a stock downturn in mid-December as the pharmaceutical giant issued a less-than-optimistic outlook for 2024, as Seagen acquisition looms.

For the upcoming year, Pfizer projected full-year sales between US$58.5 billion and US$61.5 billion, with adjusted profit expected to be in the range of US$2.05 to US$2.25 per share.

Unfortunately, these figures fell short of expectations, with consensus estimates anticipating $62.66 billion in sales and US$3.13 per share in adjusted profit.

Notably, these projections exclude the impact of the impending Seagen takeover, set to conclude on Thursday.

The downward spiral comes amidst a declining demand for Covid vaccines, a trend observed not only by Pfizer but also by its partners BioNTech, Moderna, and Novavax.

The third quarter saw sales of Pfizer’s Covid shot Comirnaty and antiviral pill Paxlovid underperforming already tempered expectations, as indicated by Third Bridge analyst Lee Brown.

However, the pharmaceutical giant found solace in the positive performance of its vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and pneumococcal disease during the third quarter, surpassing expectations.

Pfizer, in collaboration with GSK, obtained FDA approval for RSV vaccines for adults aged 60 and older earlier this year, offering a promising avenue for growth.

Despite these achievements, Pfizer faced setbacks in its development pipeline. The mRNA-based flu shot was delayed by a year due to its efficacy against A strains but limited impact against B strains, a challenge also encountered by Moderna.

Additionally, the company abandoned the development of once-daily and twice-daily pills for type 2 diabetes after unexpected side effects surfaced in testing.

Pfizer is now redirecting its focus towards another once-a-day pill, aiming to compete with market leaders Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly in the GLP-1 drug category.

Pfizer’s financial performance and annual metrics

In the third quarter, Pfizer reported a loss of 17 cents per share, excluding certain items, on US$13.23 billion in sales.

Despite a 42% decline in sales on a strict, as-reported basis, the company’s performance was mixed, beating some expectations while falling short of others.

The impact of declining Comirnaty and Paxlovid sales was evident, with Comirnaty sales plummeting 70% to US$1.31 billion and Paxlovid sales collapsing 97% to US$202 million.

In contrast, RSV vaccine Abrysvo exceeded expectations with US$375 million in sales, and the pneumococcal shot Prevnar 20 came in ahead at US$1.85 billion.

Looking at Pfizer’s annual metrics for 2022, the company achieved record sales of US$100.33 billion. Key contributors to this success were Comirnaty and Paxlovid, generating US$37.81 billion and US$18.93 billion, respectively.

The blood thinner Eliquis saw a 9% increase to US$6.48 billion in sales, while the pneumonia vaccine Prevnar experienced a 20% climb to US$6.34 billion.

However, certain products faced challenges, with revenue from Xeljanz dropping 27% to nearly US$1.8 billion, and sales of cancer drug Ibrance declining by 6% to US$5.12 billion.

For 2023, Pfizer anticipates adjusted earnings of US$1.45 to US$1.65 per share and US$58 billion to US$61 billion in sales, reflecting a significant decrease in both earnings and sales.

The company’s 2024 outlook remains uninspiring, with sales expected to be flat compared to 2023 estimates, while earnings are projected to surge more than 24% at the midpoint.

Diversification efforts and recent FDA approvals

Despite the challenges, Pfizer secured notable FDA approvals in various therapeutic areas. The combination of drugs Braftovi and Mektovi received approval for patients with spreading lung cancer, and the ulcerative colitis drug Velsipity demonstrated positive results in a Phase 3 study.

Additionally, Pfizer’s vaccine targeting five strains of a virus causing meningococcal disease gained regulatory approval.

Pfizer is actively engaged in the ongoing fight against Covid, with its vaccines, alongside those from Moderna and Novavax, proving effective against the XBB.1.5 subvariant of omicron.

The company also explores the realm of diabetes treatment, focusing on drugs leading to weight loss by mimicking gut hormones signaling fullness and enhancing insulin production.

Pfizer seeks approval for an under-the-skin shot for hemophilia A and B patients, showcasing significant efficacy in reducing bleeding rates.

Pfizer is now seeking approval in the U.S. and Europe for an under-the-skin shot for hemophilia A and B patients in a bid to broaden its portfolio.

The drug led to a 92% cut in annualized bleeding rates compared to a 35% drop for patients who received standard treatments.

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