It wasn’t that long ago that Big Pharma and biotech were universally hated.
The fact that these companies sometimes made big profits off their drugs that treat sick, and in some cases deathly ill, people made many Americans see red – particularly because we pay more than folks in many other countries do.
But I can’t help but wonder whether the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccines has softened people’s hearts a little bit toward the drugmakers…
Of course Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), Moderna (Nasdaq: MRNA), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and others will make money on the vaccines. But the speed at which they developed, tested and distributed the vaccines is absolutely incredible.
Prior to COVID-19, the fastest vaccine development on record was for the mumps, and that took four years. Granted, that was in the 1960s and technology was nowhere near where it is today.
But to create a safe and effective vaccine for a previously unknown virus and to have 84 million Americans already vaccinated just one year after the pandemic started is absolutely mind-boggling.
As someone who follows the industry, I can’t overstate how impressed I am with what’s happening.
That doesn’t mean everything is perfect. There are companies like AstraZeneca (Nasdaq: AZN) that seemed to have dropped the ball with how they reported their data, causing many people to lose faith in the safety and efficacy of their vaccines.
And other vaccine-makers have failed at creating a safe and effective alternative.
There are also log jams for people trying to get the vaccine.
In Florida, people stay up until midnight or wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get online and try to schedule a shot. Depending on which destination they’re trying to get vaccinated at, two minutes after the sites open, all spots are gone. You have to be very fast and very lucky to obtain one.
And people are driving two hours to get them in some cases.
However, shots are going into arms. COVID-19 death numbers are coming down, and it feels like life could return to relative normal one of these days.
During the election, there was a lot of talk about forcing drug companies to lower prices. You don’t hear much about that now.
At some point, when COVID-19 is a bad memory, the issue will likely rear its head again. But I suspect Big Pharma and biotech earned themselves a grace period for a little while.
And despite the industry’s cheesy commercials with couples in outdoor bathtubs and women looking longingly at their newly virile partners, it has proved just how valuable its work is.
Big Pharma and biotech are more or less recession-proof because a patient is generally not going to stop taking life-saving medicine just because the economy or the market is bad.
But now that they may have the government off their back for a little while, drug companies may not have to worry about lowering prices, shrinking margins and smaller profits.
That could lead to strong earnings for plenty of companies that have nothing to do with COVID-19 but will benefit from the goodwill that the vaccine-makers have earned.
Next Monday, I’m going to talk about my favorite way to invest in biotech and a very personal experience regarding this important factor.