TOPLINE British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca Wednesday announced it will transition to “modest profitability” for sales of its Covid-19 vaccine, departing from previous commitments to sell the shot on a not-for-profit basis during the pandemic.
AstraZeneca said it intends to move towards profitability as new orders for its Covid-19 vaccine come in.
The drugmaker anticipates profiting on the vaccine this quarter, according to a trading update released Friday, as it fulfills news sales commitments and those made during the pandemic.
AstraZeneca said the jab, which it developed alongside the University of Oxford, will still be supplied to poorer nations on a not-for-profit basis and profits will be used to offset costs from its Covid-19 antibody treatment.
$1.05 billion. That’s how much AstraZeneca made from sales of its Covid-19 vaccine in the third quarter. This is up from $894 million and $275 million in the second and first quarter, respectively, and the company said it and sub-licensees have delivered 1.5 billion doses by the end of September. In contrast, Pfizer and Moderna booked around $13 billion and $5 billion from vaccine sales in the third quarter.
Unlike other major drugmakers, AstraZeneca pledged to sell its Covid-19 shot at cost during the pandemic. The company’s entrance into the vaccine race took many by surprise, mostly due to the fact it had produced just one vaccine before, a nasal flu spray. The actual duration of the pledge—which has been a drag on profits—is unclear, though executives indicated they may evaluate countries on a case-by-base basis and agreements seen by the Financial Times revealed a clause enabling the company to decide itself after a certain period of time. The vaccine was originally framed as a world-saver, a more practical and cheaper alternative to the mRNA shots of Pfizer and Moderna. Though it is safe and effective, a litany of issues including mistakes in clinical trials, concerns about rare blood clots and trouble delivering doses on time have knocked the vaccine’s—and AstraZeneca’s—reputation worldwide, though it remains a staple of the global Covax vaccine sharing initiative. Following the success of its coronavirus shot, the drugmaker is creating a division dedicated to vaccines and antibody therapies.
By Robert Hart, Forbes Staff