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5 May, 2024 22:12

Cancer ‘is our new Covid’ – Pfizer CEO

The US pharma giant is betting on oncology since demand for its Covid-19 vaccines has collapsed
Cancer ‘is our new Covid’ – Pfizer CEO

American drug manufacturer Pfizer has its sights set on the cancer treatment market now that the Covid-19 pandemic is over and global demand for its vaccines and coronavirus drugs is falling, CEO Albert Bourla told Fox Business on May 1. 

The company expects to score big on “blockbuster” cancer drugs, Bourla said, as the pharma giant seeks to reverse its post-Covid business decline. The pandemic brought record revenue to the company. In 2022 alone, Pfizer’s total sales amounted to $157 billion, with its Covid vaccine accounting for $37.8 billion and its antiviral treatment pill, Paxlovid, bringing in another $18.9 billion. 

In 2023, sales were down by more than half and accounted for $71 billion. The company’s shares have fallen by 42% since the end of 2022 amid the rapid decline in demand for its Covid-related products. This led to a major cost-cutting campaign, including hundreds of layoffs at its UK, US, and Irish facilities. 

In his interview with Fox Business, Bourla praised the measures as a “very good cost containment” campaign, crediting it for the “very good results” his company showed in early 2024. Pfizer is also on the verge of striking gold again with its new strategy, he said. 

“Oncology, it is our new Covid,” the Pfizer CEO said. “We did what we did with Covid. We are very proud to have saved the world but it is behind us now. We want to do [it] once more and I think oncology is our best chance to do it.”

In late 2023, the US drug manufacturer completed the $43 billion acquisition of Seagen (formerly Seattle Genetics) – a biotechnology company specializing in monoclonal antibody-based drugs, also known as antibody-drug conjugates, or ADCs. They are designed to kill tumor cells while leaving healthy tissues relatively unaffected. 

Seagen was previously known for its flagship product Adcetris, which is used to treat lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. According to drugs.com, the medicine costs around $11.91 for a 50-mg dose. 

Another drug in the company’s portfolio that has demonstrated “phenomenal performance” is Padcev, according to Bourla. Padcev is used to treat bladder cancer, and its sales have “had a growth of 164%” since the US pharma giant acquired it, he said. The average price for Padcev is $4,446 per 30-mg dose, according to drugs.com. 

“That demonstrates how well we’ve invested the money,” Bourla said, commenting on Padcev’s performance. He also promised blockbuster drugs in the future that “will have a significant impact on cancer patients.”

Pfizer announced its shift toward cancer treatment in late 2023. “Nothing scares people all over the world more than cancer, because it affects everyone,” Bourla said at the time. “I hope we will be successful in our mission. I am optimistic that in the next 10 years, we will see significant advancement,” he added.

In January 2024, the company said it plans to have at least eight blockbuster cancer treatment drugs by 2030 and double the number of patients treated with its innovative medicines, up from 2.3 million in 2023.

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