Pfizer posts surprise profit as US returns fewer COVID pill courses
Pfizer Inc. reported an unexpected profit for the quarter on Tuesday. The company's earnings were buoyed by effective cost-cutting strategies and a reduced number of COVID treatment courses, Paxlovid, returned by the U.S. government compared to initial forecasts.
The pharmaceutical giant noted a $3.5 billion revenue gain associated with Paxlovid for the period, following the return of about 6.5 million courses. This figure was less than the anticipated $4.2 billion non-cash charge, which would have resulted from an estimated return of approximately 7.9 million courses by the end of 2023.
Pfizer's adjusted earnings reached 10 cents per share in the fourth quarter, defying analysts' average prediction of a 22-cent loss per share, as per LSEG data. Despite the challenges faced in 2023, including a decline in investor interest and a setback in its experimental obesity drug, the company's shares showed resilience, marking a 1.2% increase in premarket trading.
The company's revenue from COVID products, including Paxlovid and the Comirnaty vaccine (developed in partnership with BioNTech), totaled $12.5 billion for the year, aligning with Pfizer's targets. However, this figure represents a 78% decrease from the peak sales of $57 billion in 2022.
Looking ahead, Pfizer is focusing on a return to profitability, underpinned by a $4 billion cost-cutting program and internal restructuring. The company is also banking on revenue growth through its cancer treatments, including the recent $43 billion acquisition of cancer drugmaker Seagen, and its new RSV vaccine. Research expenses for the quarter were reported at $2.82 billion, a 22% decrease from the previous year.