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Moderna Takes $1.3 Billion Hit From Sluggish Covid Vaccine Uptake

Moderna posted a quarterly loss of $3.63 billion, half of which was accounted for by unused Covid-19 shots past their expiration date.

(Photo by Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash)

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When vaccines go bad, so does your bottom line.

Moderna posted a quarterly loss of $3.63 billion on Thursday, half of which was accounted for by unused Covid-19 shots exceeding their expiration date. Moderna isn’t the only Covid vaccine maker to take a major hit this week: Pfizer took a similar beating — but that doesn’t mean Big Pharma as a whole is having a bad time.

Shots in the Dark

The race to develop a Covid vaccine was an incredible feat of research and engineering. Pfizer’s vaccine, developed with German company BioNTech, was the first to receive Food and Drug Administration approval in August 2021. Moderna was FDA-approved in January 2022. Besides its vaccine, Pfizer also developed the popular Covid-19 treatment Paxlovid.

Sales of the vaccines and treatments drove Pfizer’s 2022 revenue to a record-breaking $100 billion, while Moderna pulled in a positively modest $19.3 billion. Both companies knew that the good times (insert hollow laugh here) couldn’t last:

  • Pfizer told investors in February to expect a 2023 drop in revenue by as much as 33%, giving a rough estimate of $67 billion to $71 billion. In October, it downgraded that projection, predicting full-year revenue of between $58 billion and $61 billion.
  • Paxlovid sales alone saw a 97% drop in revenue to $202 million, much less than the $613.5 million analysts had been expecting. Meanwhile, although Moderna swung to a loss for Q3 of this year, it did manage to top Wall Street’s expectations on revenue.

For other drugmakers, however, the balance sheet isn’t quite so drenched in red ink. British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline raised its profit expectations for the year on Wednesday, in large part due to a better-than-expected uptick in demand for its Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine Arexvy. Moderna is working on its own RSV vaccine, which it hopes to launch in 2024.

Heavyweights: The biggest pharma winners of this quarter should come as no surprise. Novo Nordisk, the company behind weight-loss drug Wegovy, made $22 billion off its weight-loss products in the first nine months of this year, a 36% increase from the same period last year. Eli Lilly topped Wall Street’s expectations thanks to its weight-loss drug Mounjaro, but slightly lowered guidance for the year due to the fact it treated itself to a few acquisition morsels this year.