More than 920,000 children died of pneumonia in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. For 2015, Ian Read, the chairman and CEO of Pfizer who earned a salary of $23.3 million, reported that the pharmaceutical giant turned a $7.7 billion profit, driven in part by a 53 percent growth in revenue from the Global Vaccines division.
These figures are not unrelated.
Pfizer is the leading manufacturer of a vaccine that can prevent the contraction of pneumonia, a respiratory infection responsible for taking the life of 1 out every 6 children who dies before the age of 5. That vaccine is called Prevnar and it is making very rich people lots of money, generating $1.8 billion in revenue last year alone.
“If anyone is looking for high and consistent cash flow, and strong profit margins, Pfizer has it,” noted Tony Scherrer, research director at Smead Capital Management, when the company released news of its latest haul in February.
So why, then, with its consistent cash flow and steady profits – just under $16.9 billion over the last two years – is the world’s second largest drug company so stingy when it comes to providing the developing world affordable access to a life-saving vaccine? When the bulk of its cash flow comes from sales at a premium price in the wealthy, industrialized world, why is it quite literally allowing children to die in the world’s most impoverished places?