Last week was a bad one for COVID-19 biologics produced by Moderna, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, Inc. (J&J). News reports began filtering out about new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which were published on Apr. 5, 2021 in the journal JAMA and revealed that people who receive Moderna’s experimental mRNA-1273 biologic are more likely to suffer adverse reactions than those who get the experimental BNT162b2 biologic produced by Pfizer, Inc. and BioNTech SE.1 2
Additionally, on Apr. 13, the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a joint statement recommending immediate suspension of distribution of J&J’s experimental Ad26.COV2.S biologic after six women (18-48 years of age) in the United States developed a disorder that led to blood clots six to 13 days after vaccination. One of the women died and another was hospitalized and reported to be in critical condition. The CDC and FDA said that they were “recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution” while the cases were being reviewed. In response, more than two dozen states cancelled vaccination appointments for the J&J product. 3 4 5
Bad News for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson is Good News for Pfizer
But a bad week for Moderna and J&J may provide a sales opening for Pfizer/BioNTech and their BNT162b2 product. On Apr. 13, following the CDC/FDA statement on J&J’s Ad26.COV2.S, Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, tweeted:
Pfizer has ramped up production of our #COVID19 vaccine & can deliver 10% more doses to the U.S. by the end of May than previously agreed (total of 220M) & supply the full 300M agreed on for the end of July two weeks early. In the fight against COVID-19, we’re in this together.6
According to MarketWatch, the value of Pfizer stock rose 0.5 percent following Bourla’s comments.7
Clearly, the negative news for its competitors has the potential to create some new business opportunities for Pfizer (and BioNTech) and the company is wasting no time ramping up production of Ad26.COV2.S doses… to the tune of 10 percent more doses by the end of next month. Pfizer had previously promised to provide the U.S. government with 100 million doses by the end of March 2021 and another 100 million doses by the end May. The new target will be a total of 220 million doses by the end of May and another 80 million doses by the end of July.8 9
Pfizer Raising Price of Its COVID-19 Biologic
Depending on how the Moderna and J&J products fare in the market for COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. during the next few months, Pfizer/BioNTech may soon be in a position to dominate the market. If so, it will be interesting to see what impact this would have on the price of Ad26.COV2.S. If Pfizer’s recent move to jack up the price of its product by 60 percent within the European Union (EU) is any indication, it’s a reasonable bet that the company and its partner will do the same in the U.S. While the U.S. is dealing with the issue of blood clotting related to the J&J biologic, Europe currently has a similar issue involving the AZD1222 biologic for COVID-19 developed by AstraZeneca plc and Oxford University. 10 11 12
Note that the idea of Pfizer markedly raising the price of Ad26.COV2.S is not mere speculation. According to one news report, U.S. pharmaceutical companies “have quietly touted plans to raise prices on coronavirus vaccines in the near future and to capitalize on the [coronavirus’s] lasting presence. Pfizer CFO Frank D’Amelio commented in March, “As this shifts from pandemic to endemic, we think there’s an opportunity here for us.” He added that other factors such as the need for annual booster shots offer “a significant opportunity for our vaccine from a demand perspective, from a pricing perspective, given the clinical profile of our vaccine.”13
COVID-19 is starting to look like a real cash cow for Big Pharma, especially Pfizer.
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Click here to view References:
1 Chapin-Bardales J, Gee J, Myers T. Reactogenicity Following Receipt of mRNA-Based COVID-19 Vaccines. JAMA Apr. 5, 2021.
2 Williams C. Study shows Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine could lead to more side effects than Pfizer/BioNTech’s. Fox 35 Orlando Apr. 11, 2021.
3 Barnes A. US calls to suspend use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after blood clotting problems. The Hill Apr. 13, 2021.
4 Press release. Joint CDC and FDA Statement on Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine. U.S. Food and Drug Administration Apr. 13, 2021.
5 Breuninger K. States rush to replace J&J vaccine appointments after FDA recommends pause. CNBC Apr. 13, 2021.
6 Sandler R. Pfizer Says It Can Deliver 10% More Doses In May Than Previously Promised. Forbes Apr. 13, 2021.
7 Assis C. Pfizer ramps up COVID-19 vaccine production for the U.S., CEO says. MarketWatch Apr. 13, 2021.
8 Reuters. Pfizer to deliver 10% more doses to U.S. by end of May- CEO. Nasdaq Apr. 13, 2021.
9 McLaughlin K. Pfizer is ramping up vaccine production and will meet its goal of 300 million doses two weeks early, its CEO said. Business Insider Apr. 13, 2021.
10 Wood P. Pfizer hikes cost of Covid vaccine for EU by 60 per cent. City A.M. Apr. 13, 2021.
11 Hendler C. After Blood Clot Reports, Some Countries Stop Using the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine. The Vaccine Reaction Apr. 5, 2021.
12 European Medicines Agency. AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine: EMA finds possible link to very rare cases of unusual blood clots with low blood platelets. Apr. 7, 2021.
13 Fang L. Drugmakers promise investors they’ll soon hike COVID-19 vaccine prices. The Intercept Mar. 18, 2021.