Pfizer Inc. (PFE) is the world's largest research-based pharmaceutical company, with a current pipeline of over 78 drugs and over 55 commercialized. Further, the stock price has recently enjoyed plenty of success trading at a 52-week's high, and up over 30% year over year. But can the company continue to impress shareholders when growth appears to be coming to a halt?
Recently Approved Drugs
Approved in November 2012. Analysts expect that the drug can reach peak sales of $2 billion to $3 billion a year, offering some blockbuster relief to a company that has been savaged by generic competition. A Pfizer spokesperson told Bloomberg the drug will cost $2,055 a month, or a bit more than $24,000 a year.
Now the door is open for Pfizer to start competing with Abbott's (ABT) number-one selling drug Humira, which is expected to earn $9.5 billion this year. As an oral drug, Xeljanz is likely to look more appealing for many patients compared to an injectable like Humira. But Humira has built up plenty of momentum in this market.
Approved late December 2012. Eliquis, the clot buster drug made by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) and Pfizer. The FDA sanctioned the blood-thinner for reducing risk of stroke and blood clots in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation (AF), a common irregular heart beat, afflicts more than 5.8 million Americans, according the Bristol-Myers, and the ailment spikes their risk of stroke. Last year Pfizer and Bristol revealed that in a 18,201-patient study comparing Eliquis or apixaban to decades-old warfarin, the new clot buster lowered stroke risk by 21%, major bleeding by 31% and mortality by 11%.
Bristol and Pfizer have a potential mega-blockbuster product on their hands, with analysts estimating peak sales of more than $5 billion. The drug faces competition from similar drugs such as Xarelto from Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and the bloodthinner Pradaxa from Boehringer Ingelheim. Yet some experts, including those cited by Leerink Swann, believe that Eliquis is the top new warfarin replacement.
Approved September 2012. According to FDA estimates, more than 5,400 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed this year with CML. Pfizer cites research that estimates as many as 26,000 Americans live with CML, a number that is expected to increase tenfold by 2040. Around one-third of patients who use imatinib -- one of the main drugs currently used to treat CML -- don't achieve an optimal response.
Despite the relatively low number of potential patients, bosutinib represents a market potentially worth several hundred million dollars annually to the company. A Pfizer spokesperson told FierceBiotech that bosutinib will cost less than $8,200 per month. With that price level, it doesn't take many patients to bring in significant revenue dollars.
Pfizer's experimental breast cancer drug stopped progression of an incurable form of the disease for more than two years in a study, a dramatic delay for those with the second-deadliest cancer in women.
Patients were given the medicine, called PD 0332991, along with Novartis (NVS) Femara. The findings, reported in December 2012 showed no tumor progression for a median of 26.1 months, compared with 7.5 months in those who received Femara alone. Results were from the second of three stages of testing normally needed for U.S. approval.
The medicine is the first in a new class of agents that works by blocking a protein critical in the cancer cell cycle, said researcher Richard Finn. It's also among the most promising in New York-based Pfizer's drug development pipeline, with the potential for generating $5 billion in annual sales for breast and other tumor types, Andrew Baum, an analyst at Citigroup in London, wrote in a note to investors.
Despite the recent significant price appreciation, Pfizer's valuation remains attractive relative to its peers. Sell-side analysts on average predict the firm's revenue, EBITDA, and EPS to rise by 2-year CAGRs of -0.9%, -2.1%, and 10.8%, respectively, over the next 2 fiscal years. Those consensus growth estimates only slightly underperform the averages of 0.3%, -1.4%, and 13.8%, respectively, for a peer group consisting of Pfizer's primary competitors listed in the U.S. market.
Pfizer's relatively weaker growth potential would likely be the primary drag on the stock's valuation. However, given such value to be soon realized in 2013, it should contribute to better than expected growth with certain products like Lipitor losing their market share.
In addition, JPMorgan's research analyst, Chris Schott, has the following investment thesis for the stock, "We see Pfizer offering an attractive mix of 1) inexpensive valuation, 2) an approaching near-term new product cycle with 3) a high FCF/dividend yield, and 4) limited earnings risk, in our view. We see Pfizer launching four $1+ billion products in 2012. This core portfolio of pipeline assets should enable Pfizer to return to modest top-line growth beyond the company's 2012 patent expiration cycle."
Disclosure: I am long PFE.