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Pharmaceutical sector riding high on back of pandemic

Despite negative pandemic impacts across sectors, multinational pharma giants like Novartis, Sanofi, Pfizer, and GSK performed greatly in 2020, with the road ahead depending on 2021’s global economic recovery and vaccine rollouts.

Swiss pharma giant Novartis delivered a solid performance in 2020 across strategic priorities. Net sales reached over $48 billion in the fiscal year, up 2.5 per cent on-year. Its core net income hit $13.15 billion, up 8.67 per cent.

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan said, “Operationally, we grew sales and continued to improve core operating margins for innovative medicines. We advanced our next wave of medicines, achieving a number of new approvals highlighted by Kesimpta in the US, and Leqvio and Zolgensma in the EU, and progressed our broad and deep mid-stage pipeline of first-in-class medicines.”

Last year Novartis continued to focus on its status as a leading medicines company powered by advanced therapy platforms and data science. It also continued to advance transformative innovation for patients, including treatments for hyperlipidemia and multiple sclerosis.

Coronavirus-related lockdowns in several areas negatively impacted particular therapeutic areas such as ophthalmology, dermatology, and the Sandoz retail business. However, the group’s operations remain stable and cash collections continue according to normal trade terms, with daily sales outstanding at normal levels.

Operationally, solid sales growth, improved gross margins, and productivity including lower spending drove double-digit growth in core operating income. The innovative medicines segment core margin increased by 2.2 percentage points to 35 per cent of sales, and Novartis expects this margin to improve in the midterm.

Meanwhile, French multinational pharma company Sanofi saw sales increase 3.3 per cent to just over €36 billion ($43.78 billion) in full-year performance, driven by Dupixent and vaccines. Business earnings per share (EPS) was €5.86 ($7.13), up 3.9 per cent on a reported basis and 9.2 per cent at constant exchange rates (CER), ahead of the guidance of 7-8 per cent.

Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson commented, “While last year was an extraordinarily challenging year for all, I am incredibly proud of the measurable progress we made within the backdrop of a global pandemic. We bolstered our research and development pipeline with the completion of the Synthorx and Principia acquisitions, met several regulatory milestones to bring our important medicines to patients, and have seen several proofs of concept which reassure us about the priorities we chose. We continue to work in parallel on our two COVID-19 vaccine candidates.”

Elsewhere, the American corporation Pfizer reported full-year 2020 revenues of $41.9 billion, up 2 per cent on-year

Dr. Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer stated, “Last year has been a transformational one, not only for Pfizer but also in the life of every patient in every community that we serve. As a company, we saw the culmination of Pfizer’s decade-long conversion into a pure-play, science and innovation-focused company.”

Bourla added that Pfizer’s ability to move quickly and utilise cutting-edge science to help address the world’s most important medical challenges was put to the test by the pandemic. “Our record-breaking success at developing a vaccine against COVID-19, along with our partner BioNTech, is just one example of what we believe this new Pfizer is capable of achieving,” he added.

In the 2021 financial guidance, Pfizer expects the midpoint of the guidance range for revenues to represent 44 per cent growth from 2020 revenues, given the significant impact that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to have on the company’s overall results this year.

The vaccine revenue projection incorporated within Pfizer’s 2021 financial guidance primarily includes doses that are expected to be delivered in the year under existing contracts, and may be adjusted in the future as additional contracts are executed. Pfizer expects revenues for the vaccine of approximately $15 billion.

Novartis, meanwhile, is confident that the progress it has made on its strategic priorities as a focused medicines company will result in top and bottom line growth through to 2025.

Sanofi expects 2021 business EPS to grow to a high single digit at CER, barring unforeseen major adverse events. Applying average January 2021 exchange rates, the currency impact on 2021 business EPS is estimated to be between -4.5 to -5.5 per cent.

“The continuous uptake and potential of Dupixent for patients and our contribution to population health with vaccines, reinforced with the resiliency of our general medicines and consumer healthcare portfolios, are all solid foundations to build upon in 2021, helping us achieve our ambition of bringing breakthrough medicines and vaccines to people around the world,” noted Hudson.

Globally, Novartis, Sanofi, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and GSK are among the multinationals achieving strong performances in Vietnam. They are expanding significantly in social business programmes and gaining a strong footprint – and with the local market’s growing healthcare spending on pharmaceuticals and healthcare services, they are expected to continue to make gains.

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