Big Pharma second quarter growth, ranked: Regeneron and Pfizer lead the way as sales rebound from depths of pandemic

We’re not done with the coronavirus pandemic yet, but you wouldn’t know from the pharmaceutical industry’s second quarter results.

After a tentative first quarter of 2021 – attributed to the pandemic and a change of guard in Washington, DC – signs of recovery abound.

In recent weeks, as companies have presented their quarterly figures, most are telling a different version of the same story. Drug sales are on the rise, with some therapeutic areas rebounding faster than others. And while the recovery is underway, there is still a long way to go to return to the industry’s pre-pandemic landscape.

The resilience of the rebound even surprised market experts. In this series of reports, many companies have exceeded Wall Street’s revenue expectations.

More than half of the major pharmaceutical companies reported a revenue increase of more than 15% from the same quarter in 2020, which was marred by the lockdowns and economic system shock that ensued at the start of the pandemic. .

“We generally saw strong double-digit sales growth due to increased physician visits and diagnostic rates and a favorable comparison to Q2 2020 which was negatively impacted by storage in Q1. quarter of 2020, ”Ashtyn Evans, senior analyst at Edward Jones, told Fierce Pharma.

The companies that have recorded the most dramatic revenue growth are those that have developed COVID-19 treatments. In fact, this was the case for the six companies that exceeded a 20% increase, including Regeneron (up 163%) with $ 2.59 billion in sales for its antibody drug REGEN-COV and Pfizer (92 %) with $ 7.8 billion in COVID. -19 vaccine sales. The increase in revenue at AstraZeneca (27%) and Johnson & Johnson (23%) was driven by vaccine sales, while Eli Lilly and Gilead also made gains from their treatments.

In another category, Moderna, whose vaccine sales accounted for almost all of its increase, from $ 67 million in Q2 revenue in 2020 to $ 4.4 billion this year.

Analysts like Geoffrey Porges of SVB Leerink saw the growth coming. They just haven’t gone far enough.

“We are increasing our revenue and our estimates (earnings per share) in all areas,” Porges said in a note to investors a month ago. “Management teams who were very cautious in their initial forecasts for the year are expected to increase their forecasts for the year, based on a more positive outlook in the United States and some international markets.”

RELATED: Pfizer Now Expects COVID Vaccine Sales to Hit $ 33.5 Billion This Year, a Huge $ 7.5 Increase From Its Estimate Three Months Ago

Oddly enough, the only pharmaceutical company that has seen a significant drop in revenue is poised to generate a big windfall across the board. Biogen, the developer of the recently approved Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, saw sales drop 26% to $ 2.7 billion, attributed in part to falling sales of the multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera, which is losing patients to competition from generics.

While the overall numbers indicate a rebound, some therapeutic areas have been slower to respond. The first that comes to Mizuho Securities analyst Salim Syed’s mind is HIV, where he notes lower testing and a 13% drop in diagnostic rates from pre-pandemic levels, resulting in less treatment starts.

Presenting disappointing results for the HIV blockbuster Biktarvy, Gilead CCO Johanna Mercier said it was clear that “it will take several quarters for treatment to return to pre-pandemic levels.”

On the other hand, vaccines recover quickly. Merck’s HPV vaccine Gardasil raked in $ 1.23 billion in the quarter, an 88% increase from the second quarter of last year, shattering analysts’ consensus projection of $ 1.04 .

Sales of established vaccines had fallen sharply earlier in the pandemic as people delayed doctor visits and prioritized COVID-19 injections.

RELATED: Regeneron’s COVID-19 Antibodies Bring $ 2.6 Billion, Reflecting Market Dominance and Reversing Estimates

Medicines administered by physicians, such as those in the immuno-oncology class, also showed solid growth in the second quarter. Sales of the world’s best-selling cancer treatment, Merck’s Keytruda, reached $ 4.2 billion during the period, a rebound from the first quarter when sales fell year-over-year for the first time in its short history.

“Our results demonstrate that the impact of the pandemic on our business is diminishing,” Merck CEO Rob Davis said on a results conference call. “Patient access to healthcare providers has improved and we expect continued growth for the remainder of the year.”

But not all cancer treatments rebound in the same way, emphasizes Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal. At the end of June, he wrote to clients that “oral oncology scripts like CDKs or BTKs, for example, are still well below pre-COVID levels.”

Heading into the third quarter, as the spread of the Delta variant brings uncertainty, Evans sees growth continuing. It also expects an increase in M&A activity.

“We have a positive view of the strong innovation and strength of the pipeline in the pharmaceutical industry, which we believe will drive long-term growth,” Evans wrote. “In addition, the balance sheets are strong and many companies are looking to complement their innovative portfolio of new drugs through acquisitions. So we could see business picking up in the short term. “

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