BIG PHARMA EARNINGS WATCH: BRISTOL-MYERS SQUIBB, ABBVIE, ASTRAZENECA AND PFIZER
Another Round of Big Pharma Giants Beat Wall Street Expectations In Q1 After Hiking Prices Throughout Pandemic
Big Pharma giants Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, AbbVie and AstraZeneca all held earnings calls within the past week that beat Wall Street analysts’ expectations. The brand name drug companies’ strong earnings came after the companies launched several rounds of price hikes during the COVID-19 pandemic and as the pharmaceutical industry continues to wage a campaign to keep drug prices high. All four Big Pharma giants also share a history of engaging in anti-competitive tactics that limit competition and prevent patients from accessing more affordable alternatives to their branded products.
- Bristol-Myers Squibb once again topped Wall Street analysts’ revenue and earnings estimates in the first quarter.
- The company reported revenues of $11.65 billion, up 5 percent year over year.
- Strong sales were driven by the company’s oncology division.
- Blockbuster blood clot drug Elliquis brought in $3.2 billion – up 12 percent year over year – while cancer drug Opdivo brought in $1.9 billion, also up double digits.
- Another one of the company’s blockbuster anti-cancer drugs, Revlimid, brought in another $2.8 billion in sales.
- Pfizer once again smashed Wall Street earnings and revenue expectations in the first quarter.
- Revenue was up 77 percent year over year, totaling over $26 billion in the quarter.
- Pfizer brought in $13 billion from its COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty.
- Blockbuster cancer drugs Eliquis and Ibrance also performed well, bringing in $1.8 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively.
- AbbVie reported earnings that beat Wall Street analysts’ expectations for Q1.
- The company reported sales were up 4.1 percent year over year.
- Strong sales for the company were driven by blockbuster treatments including Humira, Skyrizi and Rinvoq.
- Arthritis blockbuster Humira brought in a whopping $4.74 billion in Q1, while plaque psoriasis treatment Skyrizi brought in another $940 million for the quarter.
- Immunology drug Rinvoq brought in another $465 million.
- AstraZeneca reported earnings and revenues that bested Wall Street expectations for the quarter.
- AstraZeneca’s revenue in Q1 jumped 60 percent year-over-year to $11.4 billion.
- Strong sales were bolstered by the company’s oncology portfolio, which rose 25 percent year over year.
- Metabolic and heart disease drug Farxiga topped $1 billion in sales while lung cancer drug Tagrisso brought in $1.3 billion.
The blockbuster earnings come as all four Big Pharma companies have continued to hike prices on their prescription drugs during the pandemic, despite a growing crisis of affordability, and engage in questionable behavior.
- Bristol-Myers Squibb began 2022 by hiking prices on more than a dozen prescription drugs, including two key cancer drugs, Opdivo and Revlimid, as well as on blockbuster blood thinner drug Eliquis.
- Bristol-Myers Squibb hiked prices on at least ten medications to start out 2021.
- In 2020, Bristol-Myers Squibb hiked prices on at least 15 medications.
- This was business as usual for Bristol-Myers Squibb. From 2015 to 2019, the company had the most price hikes per drug of any Big Pharma company.
- Pfizer has already hiked drug prices 99 times this year alone – including a whopping 16.8 percent increase in arthritis drug Solu-Cortef.
- Pfizer increased the price of two of its best-selling drugs, cancer treatment Ibrance and rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz – both by more than five percent.
- Pfizer executives have repeatedly pledged to hike prices on the company’s COVID-19 vaccine when the pandemic wanes.
- Breakout drug Vyndaqel is estimated to “become among the most costly cardiovascular treatments ever,” according to the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER).
- According to ICER, price hikes on Pfizer’s drug Lyrica were not supported by new clinical evidence and accounted for an unnecessary increase in U.S. drug spending of nearly $700 million from 2017-2018.
- AbbVie launched another round of major price hikes to start the year, hiking the price of its blockbuster drug Humira, as well as on its autoimmune medicines Skyrizi and Rinvoq and cancer treatment Imbruvica – all by 7.4 percent.
- This follows 7.4 percent price hikes at the start of last year, on all of the same prescription drugs.
- AbbVie has a history of price gouging on the company’s blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug, Humira.
- Humira’s price has almost doubled since 2012, from about $19,000 to $38,000.
- AbbVie currently holds over 130 patents on Humira in the United States, blocking competition for up to 39 years.
- According to ICER, price hikes on AbbVie’s Humira were not supported by new clinical evidence and accounted for an unnecessary increase in U.S. drug spending of more than $1.8 billion from 2017 to 2018.
- The brand-name drug maker has hiked prices on 19 medications this year.
- In 2021, AstraZeneca increased prices on 19 different drugs at the height of the pandemic – including on hyperkalemia drug Lokelma and blockbuster drug Symbicort.
- The company has hiked prices on products in its portfolio three times during the COVID-19 pandemic.
AstraZeneca has a long history of hiking prices on Americans struggling to afford their medications:
- AstraZeneca Was One Of Several Companies To Participate In Big Pharma’s Biennial Price Hikes This Summer – despite the unprecedented economic uncertainty facing millions of Americans grappling with the pandemic – by increasing prices on 18 drugs, including on popular cholesterol drug Crestor and blockbuster drug Symbicort. (Tori Marsh, “Live Updates: July 2020 Drug Price Increases,” GoodRx, 8/3/20)
- In Anticipation Of Generic Competition For Its Blockbuster Anti-Ulcer Drug Prilosec, AstraZeneca, “Introduced And Pushed Doctors To Prescribe” A New Drug “Which Was Only Slightly Chemically Different From Prilosec But Had 13 Years Of Patent Protection Left.” The Report Estimates The One-Year Cost Of This Product Hop To Be Almost $2.4 Billion. “The anti-ulcer drug Prilosec was, at one time, the top drug by sales in the United States. In 2000, before its scheduled patent expiration the following year, Prilosec sales reached $4.1 billion (NIHCM Foundation, 2001). In anticipation of generic competition for its blockbuster product, AstraZeneca, Prilosec’s manufacturer, introduced and pushed doctors to prescribe its new anti-ulcer drug, Nexium, which was only slightly chemically different from Prilosec but had 13 years of patent protection left. A lawsuit alleging that AstraZeneca engaged in anticompetitive behavior with Prilosec and Nexium was dismissed in early 2008 when a district court found that AstraZeneca “did not eliminate consumer choice” (Callan, 2015). But antitrust experts have pointed out that the court’s reasoning ignores “the realities of drug markets,” where a prescription for a single-source brand drug removes the option of a generic version (Carrier and Shadowen, 2016).” (Alex Brill, “The Cost of Brand Drug Product Hopping,” Matrix Global Advisors, 9/11/20)
- As AstraZeneca Faced Generic Competition To Its High Cholesterol Drug Crestor, Its “Price Was Increased Several Times Before The Generic Came Out … Including By About 15 Percent Right Before.” “AstraZeneca’s AZN, -0.08% drug Crestor, another of the drugs featured in the report, is a popular but expensive drug that treats high cholesterol. In 2016, when the drug first got a new generic rival, the branded product cost about $300 a month without insurance coverage. The price was increased several times before the generic came out … including by about 15% right before. (AstraZeneca said it could not comment because it was not involved in the study.)” (Emma Court, “Big Pharma Games The System To Make Generic Drugs More Expensive,” MarketWatch, 8/3/18)
- AstraZeneca’s Pricing Strategy Served To Create “A New, Higher Baseline Price When The Generic Hits The Market.” (Tori Marsh, “Prices For Brand Drugs Spike Before A Generic Is Released. Here’s Why.,” GoodRx, 7/27/18)
- After Increasing Drug Prices By As Much As Nine Percent, On A 2018 Earnings Call, Soriot Insisted The Company Was “Sensitive” To Drug Pricing Concerns And Said It Had Raised “Wholesale Prices Earlier [That] Year By ‘Very, Very Modest’ Amounts.” “During an earnings conference call, the AstraZeneca chief executive disclosed the company would not raise prices in the U.S. for the rest of year. Other drug makers have taken the same step in response to pressure from the Trump administration, but he insisted this was ‘our plan … all along’ … He maintained AstraZeneca was sensitive to the problem by raising wholesale prices earlier this year by ‘very, very modest’ amounts, ‘between 1 and 3 percent’ which, he said, was ‘in line with inflation.’” (Ed Silverman, “When Modest Is Actually Excessive: AstraZeneca Spins Its Price Hikes,” STAT News, 7/26/18)
Read more on first quarter earnings from Big Pharma giant Johnson & Johnson HERE.
Read more on Q1 earnings from Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Amgen, and Roche HERE.
Read more on earnings from the first quarter of the year from Sanofi, Merck and Eli Lilly HERE.
Learn more about solutions to lower prescription drug prices and hold Big Pharma accountable HERE.