Pfizer maintains annual guidance as Eliquis, Ibrance drive Q1 sales in biopharma unit

Headline results for the first quarter:

Biopharma unit

$10 billion


Upjohn unit

$2 billion


Overall revenue

$12 billion (forecasts of $11.8 billion)



$3.4 billion


Note: All changes are versus the prior-year period unless otherwise stated

What the company said:

CEO Albert Bourla remarked that "our strong performance in the first quarter highlights the resiliency of our business even during the most challenging times," adding the biopharma business was "driven by strong performances from many key brands." However, the executive noted that its Upjohn unit, whose pending merger with Mylan was recently cleared by EU regulators, "faced two expected headwinds this quarter – generic competition for Lyrica in the US and the nationwide expansion of the [volume-based procurement] programme in China."

Pfizer noted that in the first quarter, it booked a net favourable impact of approximately $150 million due to COVID-19, boosted by greater demand for certain products in its hospital portfolio and an increase in wholesaler buying patterns for Eliquis, partially offset by a decline in patient visits to doctors' offices and elective surgical procedures.

Meanwhile, chief financial officer Frank D'Amelio said "we reaffirmed our 2020 financial guidance," explaining that the revenue forecast "absorbs a $0.6 billion unfavourable impact from changes in foreign exchange rates since mid-January 2020."

Other results:

  • Prevnar 13/Prevenar 13: $1.5 billion, down 2%, with continued paediatric uptake in China, plus an overall favourable impact of timing associated with government purchases for the paediatric indication in certain emerging markets  
  • Eliquis alliance revenue and direct sales: $1.3 billion, up 29%, primarily driven by continued increased adoption in non-valvular atrial fibrillation as well as oral anti-coagulant market share gains
  • Ibrance: $1.2 billion, up 10%, with growth of 15% in the US driven by increased CDK class penetration, and 37% growth in emerging markets, reflecting continued strong volume gains
  • Xeljanz: $451 million, up 7%, boosted by sales in international markets as a result of continued uptake in rheumatoid arthritis, and to a lesser extent from the recent launch in ulcerative colitis in certain developed markets
  • Lipitor: $405 million, down 35%
  • Lyrica: $357 million, down 70%
  • Enbrel (outside the US and Canada): $347 million, down 23%, reflecting continued biosimilar competition in most developed European markets, as well as in Brazil and Japan
  • Chantix/Champix: $270 million, down 1%
  • Xtandi alliance revenue: $209 million, up 25%, driven by continued strong demand in metastatic and non-metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer, as well as uptake from the metastatic castration-sensitive indication, which was approved in the US last December
  • Vyndaqel/Vyndamax: $231 million, versus $41 million in the prior year, driven by the drugs' US launches last year for the treatment of transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy, as well as 156% operational growth in international markets
  • Total biosimilars: $288 million, up 61%

Looking ahead:

Pfizer continues to expect revenue in 2020 of between $48.5 billion and $50.5 billion, with earnings in the range of $2.82 per share to $2.92 per share. D'Amelio said that "while our near-term outlook has greater macroeconomic uncertainty than usual due to COVID-19, we are confident that the long-term outlook for our businesses remains solid."

In terms of R&D, the drugmaker said it began to restart recruitment across its development portfolio, including new study starts, at all clinical trial sites that are currently operational, after having paused some in March due to the pandemic.

What analysts said:

Pfizer's unchanged forecast "makes clear management confidence that they have enough gears to make its earnings guidance despite COVID-19," commented Citi analyst Andrew Baum. Vamil Divan of Mizuho Securities noted that the company's unchanged outlook comes amid uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic and a greater-than-expected headwind from currency fluctuations. "It is also encouraging to see that the company is working to restart recruitment in their clinical (studies) where appropriate and looking to reschedule their Investor Day when conditions around the COVID-19 pandemic allow," he added.

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