AstraZeneca sales of Covid vaccine triple to $1.2bn in first half of 2021

AstraZeneca has reported a boost in sales of its Covid-19 vaccine, which tripled to $1.2bn (£900m) in the first half of this year – but remained significantly below the earnings of its US rival Pfizer.

Britain’s biggest drugmaker revealed it generated $894m from Covid-19 vaccine sales in the three months to the end of June, following $275m in the first three months of the year. It has pledged to provide the jab, which was developed with Oxford University, on a not-for-profit basis during this pandemic.

The figures came a day after Pfizer said it made $7.8bn from the Covid jab it developed with Germany’s BioNTech, more than doubling its first-quarter takings of $3.5bn. It raised its 2021 sales forecast for the vaccine to $33.5bn from $26bn, as the Delta variant spreads rapidly and scientists debate whether people will need booster shots. Pfizer and BioNTech have tweaked their mRNA vaccine to target the Delta variant and will begin testing the modified jab on humans next month.

Moderna will reveal next Thursday how much it made from its coronavirus jab between April and June. The US drugs company brought in $1.7bn from sales of its Covid vaccine between January and March, helping it to its first quarterly profit since it was founded in 2010. In May, the firm forecast revenues of $19.2bn from the vaccine this year, but this estimate could rise next week.

It comes after GlaxoSmithKline posted £276m of Covid-19 sales on Wednesday, mainly from sales of adjuvant – which boosts the efficacy of vaccines – to other drugs makers. The UK’s second biggest pharmaceutical firm has not developed its own coronavirus shot, but is working with France’s Sanofi and Germany’s CureVac on new vaccines.

AstraZeneca said about $572m of vaccine sales came from Europe during the first half of 2021, in a period when the company was embroiled in a court battle with the European Commission over delivery delays, and a further $455m from emerging markets.

The firm’s overall revenues grew 23% to $15.5bn in the first half of the year, boosted by new medicines, beating analysts’ expectations. Excluding Covid-19 vaccine sales, revenues were up 14% to nearly $14.4bn. Profit before tax rose 25% to $2.4bn. The company upped its sales and profit forecasts for this year after the $39bn acquisition of Alexon, a US firm that specialises in drugs for rare diseases.

AstraZeneca has postponed its application to US regulators for approval of the vaccine to the second half of this year. Chief executive Pascal Soriot said: “The simple answer is, it’s an important vaccine. And we believe it may play a role in the future, so we want to file and get approval for it.”

The filing has been delayed because the US Food and Drug Administration has requested large data sets, including from the rollout in the UK and elsewhere.

AstraZeneca is also testing booster jabs for people who have already been vaccinated with two doses of either its own shot or the mRNA-based vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

As well as supply delays, AstraZeneca has been linked to a small but concerning number of blood clot cases, some of which have been fatal. A new study from researchers in Spain, the UK and the Netherlands found that patients developed blood clots after receiving the vaccine at a “similar” rate to those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

“In this study including 1,372,213 people vaccinated against Sars-CoV-2, similar safety profiles were seen for both vaccines,” the researchers wrote in their pre-print paper, which is due to be published in the Lancet medical journal. It has not been peer reviewed yet.

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