Pfizer tops Q1 forecasts; vaccine sales slide as expected

FILE - A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 in New York. Pfizer reports their earnings on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) (Mark Lennihan, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Pfizer beat first-quarter forecasts as revenue took an expected dip, but the drugmaker predicted a sales rally later this year.

The pharmaceutical giant said Tuesday that total revenue dropped 29% in quarter, as sales tumbled for its market-leading COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty. The vaccine brought in $3 billion in the first three months of this year compared to more than $13 billion in last year's first quarter, when virus cases were soaring.

Both analysts and Pfizer have predicted that drop as the drugmaker shifts this year from supplying governments through big contracts to selling the vaccine on the commercial market.

The company said Tuesday that it also expects significantly lower sales from its vaccine and COVID-19 treatment, Paxlovid, in the second quarter compared to the first. But commercial sales are expected to kick in later this year, after leftover government inventory is absorbed.

Plus Pfizer also expects a revenue boost later this year from new product launches and fall vaccinations.

Both the vaccine and treatment have generated billions in revenue for Pfizer over the last several quarters and have easily become the drugmaker's top sellers. But Pfizer also produces other vaccines and is expanding its cancer treatments.

Sales grew 4% to $1.6 billion in the first quarter from Pfizer’s Prevnar vaccines for preventing pneumonia and related bacterial diseases. Sales of Eliquis, which is used to prevent blood clots and strokes, also grew 5% to $1.87 billion.

The drugmaker's research and development costs also climbed 9% in the quarter, as Pfizer prepared for some upcoming product debuts. The company expects to launch several products in the year’s second half, including a vaccine for the respiratory illness known as RSV.

Overall, Pfizer's net income sank 30% to $5.54 billion in the quarter on $18.28 billion in revenue. Adjusted earnings totaled $1.23 per share.

Analysts expected earnings of 98 cents per share on $16.61 billion in sales, according to FactSet.

Pfizer also reaffirmed on Tuesday its forecast for full-year earnings to range between $3.25 and $3.45 per share. That forecast initially fell short of Wall Street expectations when Pfizer released it in January.

FactSet says analysts now expect earnings of $3.39 per share.

Pfizer said in March that it would spend about $43 billion to buy biotech drug developer Seagen, which specializes in developing cancer treatments. Company officials said Tuesday that deal remains on track to close either by the end of this year or in early 2024.

Shares of New York-based Pfizer Inc. fell 49 cents to $38.72 Tuesday afternoon while broader indexes also dropped.

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