Pfizer heading for purple patch of in-house product launches

by Stephen Riddle

With record-breaking revenues and profits accruing on the back of its COVID-19 products, Pfizer is planning a big spend on business development – but chief executive Albert Bourla says the company’s in-house pipeline is already delivering.

Reeling off a list of several programmes heading for launch next year, he said this organic R&D effort has been overlooked by some analysts, who are understandably eager to see where the company will spend its cash reserves.

In the vaccines franchise, next year should see the launches of Pfizer’s respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) shot for expectant mothers and older adults, its 20-valent pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar 20 in paediatrics, and a new pentavalent meningococcal vaccine.

In oncology, Pfizer is hoping to debut its BCMA-targeting bispecific elranatamab for multiple myeloma, and fixed-dose combination Talapro (talazoparib/enzalutamide) for metastatic castration-sensitive prostate cancer, a follow-up to PARP inhibitor Talzenna which hasn’t yet made much headway in the market.

Bourla also highlighted JAK3 inhibitor ritlecitinib for alopecia areata – in hot pursuit of Eli Lilly’s just-approved Olumiant (baricitinib) in this common cause of hair loss – considered by analysts to be $1 billion-plus market opportunity.

There will be a continued rollout for endometriosis and uterine fibroids therapy Myfembree (relugolix) in markets outside the US – now facing less competition in the US following ObsEva’s regulatory problems with rival therapy linzagolix.

A potential approval for atopic dermatitis therapy Cibinqo (abrocitinib) in adolescents, could make 2023 “the…first year where we expect to have full access for this drug,” he added. And there’s a chance that its BioNTech-partnered mRNA vaccine for influenza and Duchenne muscular dystrophy gene therapy fordadistrogene movaparvovec could also be ready for marketing late 2023 or early 2024.

“This is the organic,” said Bourla, who stressed that in-house supply of new therapies comes on top of in-licensed assets like Biohaven’s migraine therapy Nurtec (rimegepant) and – while not all of them may make it over the line – are substantially ‘de-risked’.

“I don’t think that much of that has been a factor into what some of the analysts are projecting,” he told investors on Pfizer’s second quarter results call.

Bourla also reiterated Pfizer’s intention to “go very big” on business development with deals that aim to add $25 billion to its top line by 2030, as the company reported (PDF) a massive 47% increase in revenues to $27.7 billion and operating profits up 78% to $9.9 billion.

All told, $8.8 billion of that total came from COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty, with another $8.1 billion from antiviral therapy Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir), with the two products looking set to push the company to around $100 billion in revenues this year – a first for a pharma group.

There’s a big question mark over how long those COVID drugs will continue to deliver for Pfizer however, and elsewhere the results were not so impressive. Oncology products fell 2% to $3.1 billion, dragged down by competition to breast cancer therapy Ibrance (palbociclib), while JAK inhibitor Xeljanz (tofacitinib) fell 27% to $430 million as new labelling on side effects reduced prescribing volumes.

The Prevnar franchise continued to deliver, rising 15% to $1.4 billion despite competition from Merck & Co’s rival Vaxneuvance.

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