British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said Friday it has begun to sell its Covid vaccine at a profit as the company posted a third quarter loss on higher costs.
AstraZeneca, which has sold its vaccine at cost during the pandemic in contrast to rivals including US giant Pfizer, said it expects "to progressively transition... to modest profitability as new orders are received" in the current fourth quarter and beyond.
AstraZeneca posted a net loss of $1.65 billion (1.44 billion euros) for the third quarter compared with a profit after tax of around $650 million in the July-September period last year, a statement said.
AstraZeneca said it experienced higher costs in the current third quarter following its $39-billion takeover of US biotech company Alexion, as well as increased research and development expenses across multiple programmes, including its Covid treatments.
Last month, the drugs company revealed positive results from a trial of a treatment for Covid-19 symptoms, which is being produced alongside its vaccine.
Made from a combination of two antibodies, the AZD7442 treatment had been undergoing final clinical trials to assess its safety and efficacy.
AstraZeneca said the limited profit contribution from the Covid vaccine in the current fourth quarter "is expected to offset costs relating to" AZD7442.
Chief executive Pascal Soriot told a conference call with reporters Friday that AstraZeneca had always planned to stop selling its Covid vaccine at cost.
But he stressed that the company wants "the vaccine to remain affordable".
The group added that revenue from its Covid vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, totalled $2.22 billion in the year to date following delivery of around 580 million doses worldwide.
Soriot said the company had "saved millions of hospitalisations" thanks to being the world's second largest provider of Covid vaccines after Pfizer.
- Soaring sales -
The drugs giant said total group revenue soared 50 percent in the third quarter to almost $9.9 billion.
"AstraZeneca's scientific leadership continues to provide strong revenue growth and exceptional pipeline delivery... including our long-acting antibody combination showing promise in both prevention and treatment of Covid-19," Soriot said in the earnings statement.
"The addition of Alexion furthers our commitment to bring transformative therapies to patients around the world, and I am proud of our colleagues' ongoing dedication and focus."
The group completed its mega takeover of Alexion earlier this year.
Since taking the helm at AstraZeneca in 2012, Soriot has pushed the company into lucrative treatments such as cancer therapies, and the Alexion takeover gives it more heft in areas such as treating blood disorders.