Vaccine sales stir big pharma

August 13, 2020 | 08:00
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Amidst lower-than-expected business performance, international pharma giants are betting on COVID-19 vaccine sales, hoping to alter the headwinds from the health crisis to their advantage.
1504p17 vaccine sales stir big pharma
Vaccine sales stir big pharma (Photo: Xinhua/VNA)

Top global pharmaceutical corporations Sanofi, Roche, GSK, Novartis, and AstraZeneca have announced their first-half business results, with many suffering from the negative impacts of the pandemic, while noting encouragement from COVID-19 vaccine developments. These multinational corporations all have a strong presence and plans to expand in Vietnam.

Sanofi in the second quarter of 2020 generated net sales of €8.207 billion ($9.73 billion), a decrease of 4.9 per cent on-year. Sanofi’s first-half sales were €17.18 billion ($20.3 billion), up 0.9 per cent on-year. Its first-half business earnings per share (EPS) grew 9.2 per cent on-year.

Similarly, Roche Group appears to have weathered the storm, reporting sales growth of 1 per cent at constant exchange rates (CER) during the period, despite the pandemic negatively affecting sales across the whole business. Accordingly, for the first half of 2020, the group reported CHF29.28 billion ($31.53 billion) in total sales, down 4 per cent (up 1 per cent at CER) on-year.

Roche CEO Severin Schwan said the company was hit hardest in May because of the COVID-19 pandemic and global shutdowns. He noted that hospitals were focused almost entirely on treating patients with the virus, which delayed routine diagnostics.

Notably during this span, Roche’s SARS-CoV-2 antibody test has been a strong contributor to the on-year 3.4 per cent sales growth experienced by the company’s diagnostics division. Sales of the molecular diagnostics division, including the SARS-CoV-2 PCR test, grew 61 per cent, highlighting the importance of tests on the group’s sales.

Elsewhere, the United Kingdom’s largest pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) reported a group turnover of £16.714 billion ($21.93 billion) in the six months, up 8 per cent in annual equivalent rate, 8 per cent CER, and flat on a pro-forma basis. On the same basis, the group’s turnover was flat, but up 1 per cent excluding the impact of divestments in vaccines and brands divested or under review in consumer healthcare. Sales performance reflects disruption from COVID-19 primarily in vaccines in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, global science-led biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca witnessed total revenues rise 14 per cent on-year in the first six months, with strong revenue performance in new medicines (up 45 per cent), oncology (31 per cent), respiratory and immunology (7 per cent), and emerging markets (15 per cent).

AstraZeneca also reported core operating profit rising 23 per cent on-year despite a fall in other operating income (down 13 per cent) and core EPS of $2.01 (up 26 per cent).

Novartis also delivered strong first-half performance. Specifically, due to COVID-19, first-half results are more representative of underlying performance than the second quarter, with sales growth of 6 per cent and core operating income growth of 19 per cent. Sales of the group’s innovative medicines grew 7 per cent and core operating income 16 per cent. Sandoz’ sales grew 1 per cent and core operating income 26 per cent.

“Novartis performed strongly in the first half, despite COVID-19, demonstrating the resilience and agility of our associates and operations,” said Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis. “Our growth drivers and launches continue their strong momentum, with Cosentyx and Entresto increasing market share in the US. We are on track to deliver on our commitment to drive consistent margin expansion and are excited by the progress of our deep mid- to late-stage pipeline to drive long-term growth.”

According to a VIR source, Pfizer Inc. is seeking to work with the governments of many countries on possible COVID-19 vaccine deals, with Vietnam included. Together with Pfizer, other multinationals are betting on SARS-CoV-2 products to turn fortunes around. Roche CEO Schwan said there would be three new tests for the virus launched this year – one antibody test and two multiplex PCR tests. Currently, Roche boasts seven SARS-CoV-2 products.

On a similar note, Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK said, “We believe that multiple options will be needed to prevent and treat COVID-19 and are working at pace with our partners to develop potential adjuvant vaccines and therapeutics to fight the virus. At the same time, we have made strategic investments in next-generation vaccine and antibody technologies, most recently through our new collaboration with CureVac.”

Globally, a number of COVID-19 vaccine development deals have been signed. The US government last week announced signing a new $1 billion deal for a vaccine that is currently being developed by Johnson & Johnson, guaranteeing 100 million doses. Also last week, Canada signed an agreement for undisclosed financial terms with Pfizer Canada and BioNTech SE for 100 million doses of their experimental vaccine this year and more than one billion in 2021.

Sanofi and its partner GSK also reached a deal of $2.1 billion to supply the US federal government with 100 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine. Two of the world’s leading vaccine manufacturers have also signed a similar deal with the UK, which has agreed to buy 60 million doses for an unspecified sum.

By Thuy Nguyen

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