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Solid Q1 results lift Pfizer as it waits for pipeline boost

Shares rose almost 2% in the wake of the presentation

Albert Bourla’s first quarterly results call as chief executive of Pfizer didn’t reveal any big surprises, but it demonstrated modest growth as the company’s pipeline gears up to deliver a renewed sales push next year.

Bourla

Albert Bourla, CEO, Pfizer

Much like Eli Lilly, Pfizer’s first quarter results were a story of volume growth offset by pricing pressures, with a net price decline across the portfolio of 3%, and total revenues rose 1.6% to $13.12bn, which was ahead of analyst forecasts.

The company reiterated that 2019 will be a transition year with an acceleration in mid-single-digit revenue growth from 2020. That will come on the back of product launches like tafamidis in rare disease transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, a trio of recently-approved cancer drugs including Vizimpro (dacomitinib), a rival to AstraZeneca’s big-selling Tagrisso (osimertinib) product, and new biosimilars.

Among its current portfolio, breast cancer drug Ibrance (palbociclib) once again led the charge, generating sales of $1.13bn during the quarter, up 21% and marginally ahead of analysts’ estimates, with ex-US sales growing quickest.

The CDK 4/6 inhibitor looks set to remain one of Pfizer’s biggest growth brands – despite competition from rival products such as Lilly’s Verzenio (abemaciclib) and Kisqali (ribociclib) from Novartis – thanks to the company’s efforts to move it earlier in the treatment pathway and an ongoing roll-out in emerging markets.

Pfizer’s Prevnar pneumococcal vaccine franchise grew 8% to $1.49bn, around $100m ahead of expectations, although analysts expressed concerns that Pfizer was at risk of falling behind in the race to bring an extended 20-valent product to market, while direct sales and alliance revenues for anticoagulant drug Eliquis (apixaban) rose 32% to $1.01bn.

Also among the top performers was rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz (tofacitinib), which posted a healthy 30% rise in sales to $423m thanks to new indications in psoriatic arthritis and ulcerative colitis.

It’s not surprising that there were no big revelations from Bourla in the first-quarter report, as he has already started implementing a series of major restructuring initiatives announced as he prepared to take the helm from Ian Read at the start of the year.

Those included splitting Pfizer into three business units to boost growth and streamline operations, and signing a consumer health joint venture deal with GlaxoSmithKline.

“Pfizer is off to a very good start in 2019,” said Bourla on the company’s first-quarter call. “Our new commercial structure is designed to maximize today's revenue growth opportunities, while transitioning the company to a period post 2020, where we expect higher and more sustained revenue growth profile.”

Investors seemed happy with the performance, with shares rising almost 2% in the wake of the presentation.

Article by
Phil Taylor

1st May 2019

From: Sales

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