Frank A. D'Amelio, chief financial officer and executive vice president of global supply for Pfizer, said that the company is expecting a "significant opportunity" for its coronavirus vaccine "from a pricing perspective," as the world moves from a pandemic situation to an endemic situation.
He said this during a virtual global healthcare conference hosted by British multinational investment bank, Barclays.
The possibility for increased pricing was raised during the conference by Carter Lewis Gould, a senior analyst for Biopharma Equity Research at Barclays. Gould asked D'Amelio what the potential was for pursuing higher pricing down the road.
D'Amelio explained that the current price of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine has been driven by the pandemic state and by the needs of governments around the world to secure as many doses as they can for their citizens. But when the worst of the pandemic subsides and normal market conditions start to kick in, Pfizer can begin making more money for its shots.
"And factors like efficacy, booster ability, clinical utility will basically become very important, and we view that as, quite frankly, a significant opportunity for our vaccine from a demand perspective – from a pricing perspective, given the clinical profile of our vaccine. So clearly, more to come here. But we think as this shifts from pandemic to endemic, we think there's an opportunity for us here."
In July 2020, Pfizer was able to sign a $1.95 billion deal with the U.S. government to provide America with 100 million doses of the company's COVID-19 vaccine. The government doubled this order in December for another $2 billion.
D'Amelio said on an earnings call in February that Pfizer is charging the government around $19.50 per vaccine dose. This is significantly lower than the usual $150 to $175 the company charges for other vaccines. (Related: Coronavirus cases rise in states with high vaccination rates, proving yet again the vaccines don't work.)
Pfizer also expects to sell millions of doses as the pandemic drags on into 2022. During this time, a company spokesperson said that it will keep the price of its vaccine low.
"We recognize the urgent need for people all over the world to receive this vaccine and have accordingly set the price of our vaccine for the pandemic period to encourage broad access, rather than using traditional value-based pricing frameworks," wrote spokesperson Faith Salamon in an email.
By the end of 2021, the pharmaceutical giant expects to make about $15 billion from its vaccine alone, with a profit margin of more than 20 percent.
Many are now questioning why Pfizer is looking to profit from the pandemic. Radio host and conservative political commentator Kim Iversen asked on an episode of The Kim Iversen Show, "Then what the hell is the vaccine?"
"I mean, did you create it with the intention to end COVID, or did you create it with the intention to stall so you could continue to make more and have it not really cure anything, but just kind of subside some things?" asked Iversen. "What is this? What are we really doing here?"
Listen to Iversen's entire 30-minute episode as she discusses Pfizer's attempt to use the pandemic to profit, and how it was wrong for the federal government and for anybody to ever put their trust in big pharma companies.
Healthcare journalist and former pharmaceutical executive John LaMattina warned that the price of COVID-19 vaccines will almost definitely increase.
Right now, a two-dose regimen of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine is not as expensive as a quadrivalent flu shot. But LaMattina said that D'Amelio hopes to "get more on price" very soon.
"One analyst speculated that Pfizer could be targeting a price three to four times higher – as much as $156 per treatment," said LaMattina. "A sudden, dramatic increase in the cost of the vaccine will certainly damage the industry's image – almost like the industry would be performing a 'bait and switch operation."
LaMattina is hopeful that such a move would help reawaken the American public and the federal government to the true motives of big pharma. A sudden spike in the price of vaccines would make the government call in executives for congressional hearings. It would also make all the "goodwill" that biopharmaceutical companies have accumulated evaporate almost immediately.
Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies like Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson made waves during the pandemic when they promised to not enforce ordinary pricing strategies for their vaccines. AstraZeneca even went so far as to say that it would only sell its vaccine on a nonprofit basis to the developing world.
But these promises were only half-truths. While a two-dose regimen of the Pfizer vaccine costs $39 in America, in Europe, the company charges nearly $64 per dose – or around $128 for the full treatment.
In Argentina and other Latin American countries, Pfizer pressed governments to put up sovereign assets, such as military bases and embassy buildings, as collateral to cover the costs of lawsuits related to the vaccine's adverse effects.
AstraZeneca was able to force local manufacturers to include a provision in their agreements with the company. This provision states that the company has the right to declare the end of the pandemic for pricing purposes. According to a memorandum of understanding signed by the company, its promise to not profit from the vaccine during the pandemic will only last until July 1, 2021 at the latest.
During the same Barclays Bank conference D'Amelio spoke at, Moderna President Stephen Hoge said that he expects to return to normal pricing during the next "seasonal epidemic" of COVID-19.
Johnson & Johnson Executive Vice President Joseph Wolk made a similar remark at a conference in February, when he told investors that the company will reevaluate the vaccine for "pricing that's much more in line with a commercial opportunity" when the pandemic ends.
Wolk emphasized that it will be up to the company to decide when the pandemic ends, but the current price of the J&J vaccine will most likely remain in place for the remainder of the year.
"I think when we look at it, [the end of the pandemic is] not going to be something that's dictated to us," said Wolk.
Learn more about how Big Pharma plans to profit immensely from the coronavirus pandemic at BigPharmaNews.com.