Pfizer’s Best-Selling Drug Is Actually a Vaccine—and Its Price Keeps Increasing

February 5, 2019, 10:37 PM UTC

Pfizer is perhaps best known as the maker of drugs such as Viagra. But the pharmaceutical corporation’s best-selling drug isn’t the sort of drug you might think it is. Pfizer’s best-seller is a vaccine, according to Axios.

Prevnar 13 is Pfizer’s pneumococcal vaccine that protects against infections such as pneumonia and meningitis, as well as other infections caused by pneumococcus including ear and sinus. In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the immunization for adults ages 65 and older in addition to young children, typically those under the age of 2, and adults with certain chronic conditions. And that sent the profits on Prevnar skyrocketing to $23.4 billion since just 2015.

Despite of—or maybe because of that extra demand—Pfizer also continued to raise the price of Prevnar 13, which went up steadily for years despite it being a fairly widely administered vaccination, according to Kasier Health News. Despite the formula remaining relatively unchanged, between 2010 and 2017, the price went up between 5-8% annually, which resulted in a more than 50% increase over that eight-year period.

For years, drug companies have been raising prices on older drugs, but mostly those in short supply. As those price increases have been more widely reported and consumers and politicians have decried what can seem like exorbitant price hikes for prescription drugs, companies like Pfizer have had to later pull back on plans to further ratchet up costs.

But with millions of people susceptible to pneumonia every year, Pfizer is still able to make generate more revenue with Prevnar 13 than it does with Viagra. That’s not likely to change soon, either. The patent on Prevnar 13 stretches to the year 2026.