Pfizer leaves COVID product forecast unchanged, shares fall

By Manas Mishra and Michael Erman

(Reuters) -Pfizer Inc did not raise its 2022 forecast for sales of its COVID-19 vaccine and antiviral treatment on Thursday, and its shares fell nearly 5% before recovering.

The U.S. drugmaker maintained its full-year forecast of around $54 billion for its COVID products, even as second-quarter sales of its Paxlovid antiviral pills were much higher-than-expected, raising concerns among some analysts over Pfizer’s long-term growth prospects.

Paxlovid sales of $8.1 billion topped Wall Street estimates by more than $1 billion, as a surge in cases drove demand. U.S. President Joe Biden took a course of the drug for his recent bout with COVID.

The company also kept its overall sales forecast of between $98 billion to $102 billion unchanged, citing the impact of a strong dollar.

Pfizer has enjoyed an unprecedented rise in sales since the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with BioNTech rolled out globally. But sales have started to slow since last year.

Wall Street analysts are divided over the durability of both the vaccine and Paxlovid, as pandemic urgency wanes.

JP Morgan analyst Chris Schott in a research note said the long-term sustainability of Pfizer’s COVID-19 business is up for debate, and that the company’s ability to generate new drugs from its pipeline will be increasingly important for it to outperform expectations.

Pfizer has been banking on sales of vaccine booster doses, including an Omicron-tailored version expected in the fall, to drive demand in the next few years.

Pfizer and BioNTech last month signed a $3.2 billion deal with the U.S. government for 105 million doses of their vaccine, which includes supply of a retooled Omicron-adapted booster, pending regulatory clearance.

Overall sales of $27.74 billion for the quarter exceeded analysts’ estimates of $25.74 billion.

Citi analyst Andrew Baum said the picture excluding the COVID business was less rosy, as sales of important products such as breast cancer drug Ibrance and arthritis treatment Xeljanz came in well below Wall Street estimates at $1.32 billion and $430 million, respectively.

COVID-19 vaccine sales rose 13% to $8.85 billion.

Pfizer’s second-quarter profit rose to $9.91 billion from $5.56 billion a year ago. Excluding items, it earned $2.04 per share, topping analysts’ estimates by 26 cents.

Pfizer shares were down 1.2% at $50.93.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)