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Why Pfizer's Latest Big Win Makes It an Even Better Buy for Retirees

When you're retired, your investing priorities change. You're less likely to look for the hottest growth stock around. Instead, stocks with steady dividends that could still deliver solid growth catch your attention.

Income-seeking investors have liked Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) for a long time. Several developments in recent months have made the pharma stock more attractive. Just last week, Pfizer announced its latest big win, which makes the stock an even better buy for retirees. 

Scientist holding up a test tube next to a test tube rack.

Image source: Getty Images.

A "stunning" successor

Pfizer's Xalkori has enjoyed a pretty good run. The drug first won Food and Drug Administration approval in 2011 as a treatment for ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), followed by an additional FDA approval in 2016 for treating ROS1-positive NSCLC. Last year, Xalkori raked in $530 million. It's on track for higher sales than that in 2020.

But Pfizer appears to have an even bigger winner ready to take the baton from Xalkori. The company presented data on Sept. 19 at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Virtual Congress 2020 from its Crown phase 3 study evaluating Lobrena as a first-line treatment for ALK-positive NSCLC. This data was so impressive that Andy Schmeltz, global president and general manager of Pfizer Oncology, referred to it as "stunning." 

Pfizer's Crown study data showed that 72% of patients who received Lobrena had a lower chance of their cancer worsening or of dying compared to patients who took Xalkori. Half of the patients who received Xalkori in the late-stage study either died or had their cancer worsen after nine months. Pfizer wasn't able to determine the time for half of patients taking Lobrena to die or experience a worsening of their cancer because too many were still responding to the treatment a full 18 months later.

Of the patients receiving Lobrena, 76% had their tumors shrink or completely disappear, versus 58% for patients taking Xalkori. Some patients with NSCLC also had cancer that had spread to the brain; of these patients who received Lobrena, 82% had the brain cancer either shrink or disappear, compared to only 23% for those who took Xalkori.

There was one drawback for Lobrena: Of patients in the Crown study who took the drug, 73% experienced severe side effects, versus 56% for patients taking Xalkori. However, only 7% of patients receiving Lobrena stopped treatment due to side effects, compared to 9% for patients taking Xalkori. 

Adding to the list

Pfizer won FDA approval for Lobrena for previously treated ALK-positive NSCLC two years ago and currently claims a market share of close to 65%. The Crown results should make the drug an odds-on favorite to pick up another approval as a first-line treatment for the disease.

The company's goal is to deliver up to 25 breakthrough drugs by 2025. Pfizer awaits regulatory approval for four programs and has another 23 late-stage programs. These include a strong lineup of other cancer drugs.

But investors have been especially excited about the opportunities for Pfizer's vaccines. Pfizer and partner BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, is in phase 3 testing. This vaccine is arguably the leader in the coronavirus vaccine race. Pfizer's pipeline also includes 20-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine candidate PF-06482077.

A solid pick for retirees

Pfizer expects to spin off its Upjohn unit and merge it with Mylan by the end of 2020. This should set the stage for the company to deliver revenue growth of at least 6% over the next five years. That goal, though, doesn't include the growth that its COVID-19 program could contribute. 

Granted, that's not a mind-blowing level of growth. However, Pfizer's dividend currently yields over 4% and should remain pretty close to that level even after the Upjohn-Mylan deal closes. As mentioned earlier, retirees look for stocks with steady dividends and the potential for solid growth. Pfizer checks both boxes.

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Keith Speights owns shares of Pfizer. The Motley Fool recommends Mylan. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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