How Does it Feel When You Literally Can Change the World?

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-05-01-2021, Volume 41, Issue 5

Adding context to Pfizer’s orbit-busting, first-quarter earnings.

Today, as someone who is blessed to have received my vaccinations against COVID-19, I want to extend my gratitude to our industry for your dedication to patients and the hard and vital work you do every day. Our industry’s commitment to improving our lives and the perseverance and risk this requires should be celebrated and there is no better time than now. That said, billions of people still have no access to the vaccines, and I hope that the industry will continue to do what is necessary to assure that they are accessible to all.

By the time of this publication, the news will be a week or so stale, so forgive me; but as someone who was a sell-side analyst for 31 years and covered Pfizer over that entire period, I am a hopeless earnings and stock market junkie. Therefore, I am compelled to share my thoughts about the news I read from Pfizer’s 1Q’21 earnings report earlier this month, as it simply blew my mind!

Pfizer reported that sales in quarter one of 2021 for its COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, pulled in as much revenue in the first quarter as some pharma blockbusters make in an entire year after a decade or more on the market, a staggering $3.5 billion. FYI, some companies in our industry may never achieve this level of sales in total, to state the obvious. If that’s not big enough news for you, Pfizer projects a whopping $26 billion in revenues or the full year—which is a level nearly double the annual sales the top selling pharmaceutical drugs of all time have achieved over more than a decade on the market. One of these was Lipitor, also Pfizer, by the way.

This is like creating a new Fortune 500 company overnight. Wait, has that ever happened before? Of course, it hasn’t.

Further, Pfizer raised its full-year revenue guidance to a range of $70.5 billion to $72.5 billion, up from the $59.4 billion to $61.4 billion it predicted earlier. When has a company raised revenue guidance in a single quarter by $11.5 billion? Never. And with expected annual boosters, this may be sustainable for years to come.

I ask myself, what does this mean? How will it change our industry? Because I believe it definitely will. What will Pfizer do with all that cash? Who wins, who loses?

I saw industry players exit the vaccines business in droves and it became a small club due to the loss of profitability and rising litigation. Will that change with this success and the threat of other serious infectious diseases on the rise globally?

We are living in a world where vaccines—not just the one from Pfizer-BioNTech, but due credit also to the unprecedented accomplishments from Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and others still at work—have saved people’s lives, drastically improved the quality of their lives, and literally lifted the economy off of its knees into a V-shaped recovery.

GPD could reach 8% to 10% growth by the second half of this year at which point we could be at full employment. Just over one (short/long) year ago globally, we were in the depths of despair; physically, emotionally, and economically. We were all hit with an event like no other we have ever experienced or imagined.

This all changed due to the vaccines developed and commercialized by our industry and the FDA’s vigilance and collaboration.

How could anyone ever question how valuable the successes of our industry are? But they do and they have. Consistently.

This has to change!

Who brought us out of the dark and despair? Who brought us into the light and prosperity? I am so very proud to say the biopharma industry!

And it is not just the vaccine makers; the reason our industry exists is to improve the quality and length of lives. There is no greater example of the power and importance of that then the year we have lived through.

To our industry leaders, we all know that efforts to thwart our progress through drug pricing regulation, reimbursement reforms, and M&A initiatives must be carefully considered on both sides to insure value, integrity, and progress on all sides, particularly for patients.

All eyes must stay focused on the long game and we must continue to proudly and purposefully impress our mission and risks to our ability to succeed in improving the quality and duration of lives.

Barbara Ryan is Founder, Barbara Ryan Advisors, and a member of Pharm Exec’s Editorial Advisory Board