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BMS shares fall on nivolumab jitters despite solid Q4 results

Awaiting data from ongoing studies before advancing cancer prospect
Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) building

Oncology drugs drove a 6 per cent sales increase to $4.4bn at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) in the fourth quarter of 2013, which was well ahead of analyst expectations.

Despite the revenue gain - and earnings per share that grew 9 per cent to $0.51 - shares in the company closed down nearly 6 per cent on the day (January 24).

One reason for the fall appeared to be that BMS said it was waiting for more data from ongoing studies before advancing cancer prospect nivolumab into a much-anticipated combination trial in lung cancer alongside its established melanoma therapy Yervoy (ipilimumab).

BMS has concentrated on cancer immunotherapy and other priority R&D areas after jettisoning hepatitis C, diabetes and neuroscience drug discovery last year. This was followed by an agreement to hand over its share of the diabetes joint venture with AstraZeneca to its partner in the coming weeks.

Immuno-oncology dominated BMS' conference call with analysts, and the company's chief scientific officer - Francis Cuss - said the company hopes to have data from three registration trials in both lung cancer and melanoma during 2014.

The decline seems to suggest that investors were hoping for a rapid advancement of the nivolumab/ipilimumab combination into registration studies. Observers suggested that the slump in shares may also be because many analysts have already factored in significant revenues from nivolumab and combination therapies into their forecasting.

Among its established products, Yervoy sales grew 23 per cent to $260m in the quarter, despite the high number of patients being enrolled into clinical trials of other melanoma products, with solid performances in the US, Germany, France and Italy.

Leukaemia therapy Sprycel (dasatinib) had a "spectacular" year, according to BMS chief executive Lamberto Andreotti, rising 30 per cent to $365m in the last quarter.

Away from oncology, arthritis treatment Orencia (abatacept) rose 22 per cent to $397m despite an increasingly crowded market and with a new subcutaneous formulation driving growth, while hepatitis B treatment Baraclude (entecavir) was up 14 per cent to $412m. 

Eliquis (apixaban) added just $71m, still struggling to make headway in the marketplace against other new alternatives to warfarin. Andreotti said BMS would boosts its promotional spend on the drug to try to drive sales, which already includes direct-to-consumer (DTC) campaign for Eliquis started in the US last year.

"2013 was an important year for us because we are evolving into a new leading speciality care biopharma company," said Andreotti.

"I think that the solid performance last year and the development and changes that we have delivered put us in a strong position, he added.

Article by
Phil Taylor

27th January 2014

From: Sales

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