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Vyndaqel a bright spot as Pfizer comes under pressure

Faces a challenging period as big brands experience a slowdown


Pfizer’s restructuring into a leaner company is still ongoing, and in the meantime its facing a challenging period as big brands like Ibrance and Xeljanz show evidence of a slowdown.

The company’s fourth-quarter results saw a 9% drop in revenues to $12.69bn, with breast cancer drug Ibrance (palbociclib) and Xeljanz (tofacitinib) for rheumatoid arthritis both growing but missing analysts sales expectations, and it recorded a net loss of $337m.

Ibrance was up 15% to $1.28bn in the quarter, while Xeljanz climbed 11% to $607m. The top line was however dragged down by the onset of generic competition in the US to severe pain drug Lyrica (pregabalin), which plunged to $433m from $1.32bn a year ago.

Meanwhile, vaccine blockbuster Prevnar also continued its slowdown, but still brought in $1.58bn in the quarter, and anticoagulant Eliquis (apixaban) continued its strong growth with a 21% gain to $1.1bn.

The big boost for Pfizer came from Vyndaqel/Vyndamax (tafamidis) for rare disease transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis (ATTR), which swelled to $213m in the fourth quarter from just $39m a year earlier following its FDA approval to treat ATTR cardiomyopathy last September.

As of the end of 2019 more than 9,000 ATTR cardiomyopathy patients had been diagnosed in the US – raising the diagnosis rate from 1% pre-Vyndaqel launch to around 9%, according to Pfizer. More than 5,500 patients had been prescribed the drug at that cut-off and over 3,000 had already received it.

The results come ahead of Pfizer’s plan to spin out its Upjohn generic drugs business into a joint venture with Mylan called Viatris, due to complete in the middle of this year, and after it partnered with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on a JV for its consumer health business.

Upjohn sales were weak in the quarter, down 16% largely because of the impact of the US patent expiry for Lyrica – the biggest-selling drug in its portfolio – and that followed a 25% decline in the prior quarter. Meanwhile, Pfizer revealed on the call that the JV may also take control of two additional subsidiary companies – autoinjector specialist Meridian and a Japanese generics unit.

Pfizer’s new chief executive Albert Bourla said on a conference call that the company is heading for accelerated growth once the restructuring efforts bed in, and that 2020 is a “transformational” year as it pivots to a small organisation focused on new, patent-protected medicines.

The aim is to free up cash to invest in R&D, and in the fourth quarter its spending in this area rose 15% to $2.8bn. The company’s pipeline includes 15 new drugs or indications that it thinks have the potential to generate $1bn or more in annual sales by 2022.

Key candidates coming through late-stage development include JAK1 inhibitor abrocitinib for atopic dermatitis, a vaccine for Clostridium difficile infections, and vaccine against Clostridium difficile and Eli Lilly-partnered tanezumab, which has the potential to be the first in a new class of non-opioid painkillers.

Article by
Phil Taylor

29th January 2020

From: Sales



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