Health and Science

Pfizer's quarterly sales fall 8% as it races to develop coronavirus vaccine

A logo for Pfizer is displayed on a monitor on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, July 29, 2019.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Pfizer reported Tuesday first-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street estimates and reaffirmed its full-year revenue guidance as the drugmaker works to develop a vaccine to prevent the coronavirus.

The drugmaker reported adjusted earnings of 80 cents per share, 7 cents higher than Wall Street analysts polled by Refinitiv expected. The company's total sales dropped 8% from a year ago to $12 billion, which was higher than the $11.8 billion expected by analysts.

On an unadjusted basis, the company's profit for the first three months of the year dropped 12% to $3.4 billion from $3.88 billion a year ago.

Shares of the company were up nearly 2% in premarketing trading.

Pfizer, working alongside German firm BioNTech, said it is taking steps to accelerate coronavirus vaccine development and scale up manufacturing as it looks to begin human trials by the end of this month.

The company's experimental vaccine contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA. The mRNA instructs the body's own cellular mechanisms for making proteins to make those that mimic the virus proteins, thereby producing an immune response.

It estimates it can potentially produce "millions" of coronavirus vaccine doses by the end of this year and "hundreds of millions of doses" in 2021 if the vaccine is successful.

"We are fully committed to confronting the public health challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic by collaborating with industry partners and academic institutions to develop potential approaches to prevent and treat COVID-19," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in the earnings release. 

The effort by Pfizer is one of several working on a potential vaccine to prevent Covid-19, which has infected more than 3 million people worldwide and killed at least 211,000 as of Tuesday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

As the company works to develop a vaccine, it has had to delay recruitment for its other ongoing clinical trials. Pfizer said Tuesday it began to resume some clinical trials, including using virtual data collection where possible.

Pfizer said the rate of new prescriptions and vaccinations slowed during the quarter as people stayed at home due to the virus. The company expects the slowdown to continue in the second quarter.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.