For drugmaker Pfizer, a fortune amassed in the covid pandemic is now paving the path to pharma nirvana: a weight loss pill worth billions.
The company has reaped nearly $100 billion from selling covid-19 vaccines and treatments to U.S. taxpayers and foreign governments. With that windfall, it plans to get richer, sinking the cash into developing and marketing potential blockbusters for conditions like migraines, ulcerative colitis, prostate cancer, sickle cell disease, and obesity.
It just announced it will triple or even quadruple the price of its covid vaccine once it goes on the commercial market next year. Meanwhile, the company is inundating doctors and pharmacists — and consumers — with advertising touting its covid drug Paxlovid.
“Pfizer is a remarkable marketing machine. They have an incredible ability to make the most of molecules and get them adopted,” said Timothy Calkins, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
The federal government is helping Pfizer with its marketing, urging people to get boosters targeting the omicron variants, although early data has been mixed on whether the shots work better than the earlier version. But even with a 66% drop in covid vaccine sales in the past quarter, the company made about $4.4 billion in those three months. Pfizer has a deep stream of cash to finance its future. Covid has been very good for business.
The company appears most excited — judging from its messages to investors — about two experimental diabetes pills, “me too” drugs in the class known as GLP-1 agonists. As Pfizer competitors have already discovered, they double as weight-loss drugs. In one trial, more than half of obese patients on a high-dose Eli Lilly and Co. injectable lost a fifth of their body weight — results that h …