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Global Economy

How Corona is changing the pharmaceutical industry

The pharmaceutical industry has earned billions in recent months. A look at the quarterly reports reveals this: The corona vaccine manufacturer BioNTech earned 3.7 billion euros in the first quarter, just as much as its competitor Moderna from the USA. The pandemic made for hefty profits. But things have gone quiet on the stock exchange about Covid-19, says Thomas Schiessle, pharmaceutical expert at Equi. "In the future we can assume that this disease can be controlled. Not only in terms of vaccination, but also in terms of therapy and the market is also developing in this direction," he says.

This is one of the reasons why papers from BioNTech & Co. have become less attractive for investors. Prices have often lost double digits since the beginning of the year. Nevertheless, the developers of vaccines are an important and promising growth driver in the pharmaceutical industry.

Research using mRNA technology

BioNTech, for example, hopes that mRNA technology will also be successful in other diseases. For example, research is being carried out into cancer, and vaccines against tuberculosis and shingles are also being developed. That costs a lot of money. The large pharmaceutical companies, on the other hand, are also investing heavily.

In the industry, company takeovers or mergers in particular are a means to an end, explains Uwe Treckmann, an analyst at Commerzbank. Pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer "then buy up biotech companies that are doing research in areas or already have drugs on the market that complement the business you already have in a targeted manner." In the first half of the year, the number of takeovers and mergers in the industry was manageable, which was mainly due to the Ukraine war and the high degree of uncertainty on the financial markets. But rumors and speculation encourage some experts that there could be a wave of takeovers in the course of the year.

Profound structural change

It can also be observed that industry giants are getting rid of old products. The pharmaceutical and agrochemical group Bayer, for example, has announced that it will divest itself of its testosterone business. A far-reaching structural change has long since begun. Many corporations are turning their business upside down, selling peripheral areas and adapting their strategy.

A discussion in the USA is currently attracting a great deal of attention. It's about drug prices. For years, the pharmaceutical industry in the United States has earned particularly well because of above-average profit margins. In politics, however, resistance is growing. President Joe Biden wants to lower prices to make medicine more affordable for people.

This is happening to the annoyance of the pharmaceutical industry, explains Treckmann. "The danger is growing that you won't always be able to achieve the prices you are currently getting in the future and not be able to show these growth rates," he says. As a result, future profits were no longer as high. A danger that doesn't exactly make the stock market jump for joy.

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