Which Big Pharma companies are up — and down — from coronavirus

April 29, 2020

First quarter financial statements rolling in from pharma companies are showing that the coronavirus is having a varied impact across the industry. Here’s a quick glance at what several Big Pharma companies have reported: 

Who’s up

Bayer saw a spike in profits during Q1 thanks to consumers stockpiling drugs such as aspirin. Overall, the company reported that sales rose 4.8 percent to $13.91 billion, which came in higher than analysts’ predictions. But overall, Bayer said it is too soon to know how much the pandemic will impact its sales for the year.

Bayer is also still in the midst of the massive legal battle over Roundup that the company took over when it acquired Monsanto. The company said that progress in negotiating a settlement has been slowed by the pandemic. About 52,000 plaintiffs are now involved in lawsuits that link Roundup to cancer.

Revenues at Eli Lilly & Company during Q1 were up 15 percent, higher than the company’s earnings predictions. Sales for the company’s diabetes treatment, Trulicity, hit $1.3 billion and were part of the bump. Overall, the company said that sales were buoyed by increased buying due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Lilly has now raised its profit expectations for 2020. 

Who’s down

Merck is expecting to take a $2.1 billion sales hit this year due to the pandemic. The driving factor behind the company’s sales drop will be the massive reduction in doctors’ office visits across the country. 

About two-thirds of Merck’s products — including drugs like its blockbuster cancer immunotherapy, Keytruda — are administered by physicians. Although sales of Keytruda remained strong in Q1, the company expects to take its biggest hit during Q2 before rebounding by the end of the year.

Johnson & Johnson also lowered its profit forecast for 2020, citing a reduction in demand for its medical devices due to elective surgeries being canceled during the coronavirus spread. 

Pfizer reported a 12 percent drop in sales, but attributed the dip to reduced sales of Lyrica, which fell off the patent cliff last year. The company also reported that there could be a drop in Q2 sales due to a reduction in “new patients starts.” But all told, Pfizer predicts that the impact of the pandemic on its financial results will be minimal.