Sunday, July 3, 2022

How Pfizer Won the Pandemic—in Profit and Influence

 Kaiser Health News

·9 min read

By Arthur Allen | KHN

The grinding two-plus years of the pandemic have yielded outsize benefits for one company—Pfizer—making it both highly influential and hugely profitable as covid-19 continues to infect tens of thousands of people and kill hundreds each day.

Its success in developing covid medicines has given the drugmaker unusual weight in determining U.S. health policy. Based on internal research, the company’s executives have frequently announced the next stage in the fight against the pandemic before government officials have had time to study the issue, annoying many experts in the medical field and leaving some patients unsure whom to trust.

Pfizer’s 2021 revenue was $81.3 billion, roughly double its revenue in 2020, when its top sellers were a pneumonia vaccine, the cancer drug Ibrance, and the fibromyalgia treatment Lyrica, which had gone off-patent.

Now its mRNA vaccine holds 70 percent of the U.S. and European markets. And its antiviral Paxlovid is the pill of choice to treat early symptoms of covid. This year, the company expects to rake in more than $50 billion in global revenue from the two medications alone.

Paxlovid’s value to vaccinated patients isn’t yet clear, and Pfizer’s covid vaccine doesn’t entirely prevent infections, although each booster temporarily restores some protection. Yet, while patients may recoil at the need for repeated injections—two boosters are now recommended for people 50 and older—the requirement is gold for investors.

“Hopefully, we could be giving it annually and maybe for some groups that are high-risk more often,” CEO Albert Bourla told investors this year. “Then you have the treatment [Paxlovid] that will, let’s say, resolve the issues of those that are getting the disease.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>President Joe Biden listens as Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaks ahead of the 2021 G7 summit.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty</div>

President Joe Biden listens as Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla speaks ahead of the 2021 G7 summit.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

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