Pfizer sales slide as coronavirus curbs doctor visits

Dozens of companies, including Pfizer, have been hustling to develop therapies or vaccines against the coronavirus

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Pfizer Inc. said its sales fell for the latest quarter as it saw gains in its patent-protected medicines but had a decline in its Upjohn unit, while the rate of new prescriptions and vaccination slowed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York-based drugmaker on Tuesday posted $12.03 billion in first-quarter sales, down 8% from the comparable quarter last year. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting $11.81 billion.

Pfizer said demand related to the pandemic contributed $150 million to sales for the quarter, as wholesaler buying for the blood-thinner Eliquis rose.

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Sales in the company's patent-protected medicines rose 11% to $10 billion, driven by sales of key brands such as breast-cancer drug Ibrance.

Pfizer said the rate of new prescriptions for certain products and vaccination has slowed, citing fewer in-person meetings with subscribers and restrictions on patient movements due to shelter-in-place policies that weighed on the company's overall sales and marketing activity. The company expects the slowdown to carry over into the second quarter but for patient visits to rebound later in the year.

Sales in its Upjohn unit, which includes painkiller Lyrica and anti-impotence pill Viagra, fell 37% to $2.02 billion, due to the loss of exclusivity for Lyrica in 2019. Pfizer's Upjohn business is combining with Mylan NV, forming a new pharmaceutical company that is to be called Viatris. Due to the pandemic, Mylan and Pfizer pushed the transaction's expected close to the second half of the year.

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Pfizer said it restarted the recruitment of patients for certain studies after suspending it to make space for health-care demand related to Covid-19.

Net income fell to $3.4 billion, or 61 cents a share, from $3.88 billion, or 68 cents a share, in the same quarter last year.

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Excluding one-time items, earnings were 80 cents a share, ahead of the 73 cents a share analysts were looking for.

For 2020, the company backed its full-year adjusted-earnings guidance of $2.82 to $2.92 a share on sales of $48.5 billion to $50.5 billion.

Dozens of companies, including Pfizer, Eli Lilly & Co. and Gilead Sciences Inc., have been hustling to develop therapies or vaccines against the coronavirus. Pfizer has said it aims to begin testing four vaccine candidates in development with Germany's BioNTech SE by the end of the month.