Pfizer delivers strong Prevnar sales on back of big '15 consumer media outlay

Still from a recent Prevnar 13 TV ad
Still from a recent Prevnar 13 TV ad

Pfizer bested analyst predictions for third-quarter revenue, powered largely by sales of pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar 13 and breast cancer drug Ibrance.

Global revenue of $12.1 billion handily beat Wall Street consensus of $10.6 billion. As the firm ponders strategic moves like an acquisition that could allow for a so-called tax inversion or possibly splitting itself up, Prevnar and Ibrance remained bright spots in its base business.

Prevnar sales came in at $1.6 billion (mostly US), vs. $1.1 billion in the year-ago period, and Ibrance rang up $230 million (mostly US) in revenue following a February 2015 launch in advanced breast cancer (a Phase III trial of the drug in early-stage cancer is underway).

Group President of Vaccines Albert Bourla noted two reasons for stepped-up sales of the firm's blockbuster vaccine: “One, we were able to make pneumococcal vaccination age-based vs. seasonal,” he said during the firm's analyst call Tuesday morning, “ and two, very successful catching up of adults previously vaccinated with the old product [Merck's Pneumovax 23].”

Pfizer spent $55.5 million on DTC media for Prevnar 13 during the first six months of 2015, according to Nielsen figures cited in MM&M's Therapeutic Focus: Vaccines feature this month. In a TV spot aimed at adults known as “One,” the firm makes the case for grownup vaccination.

“Our consumer activation campaigns have been successful,” said Bourla, adding that awareness among HCPs “has exceeded 90%.”

Of the remaining “catch-up” opportunity for 2016, he said there were 45 million eligible adults when the CDC advisory panel gave its nod for adult use in August 2014. “We have penetrated 25%-30% of this population so far [that] were mostly vaccinated with Pneumovax 23. This [remaining] cohort is much harder to capture and will take more work.”

Also contributing to the gains were the inclusion of one month of legacy Hospira US operations. Last February's $17-billion purchase of Hospira broadened Pfizer's lineup with multiple biologics and biosimilars. The deal closed in September.

Losses of exclusivity, primarily for pain drug Celebrex and antibiotic Zyvox in the US, offset some of the gains.

And M&A, as well as the potential breakup of the company, continued to be a subject of major interest. CEO Ian Read shared his thoughts on both. “This management team is not afraid of taking bold steps,” Read said about the former. “We're taking a look at opportunities. When we [figure out] what's best way of enhancing value, we will move.”

Responding to a question about a potential breakup, the CEO added: “We said the latest we'll make a decision is the fourth quarter of 2016.”

Pfizer raised the midpoint of its 2015 revenue guidance by about a billion dollars to between $47.5 billion and $48.5 billion. It had previously been guiding to a range of $46.5 billion-$47.5 billion.