Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) had an extremely poor third quarter, marked by a major pipeline failure and falling sales of antiplatelet drug Plavix that dragged revenues down 30 per cent to $3.74bn.
The pharma company fell to a net loss of $711m, compared to net profit of $969m a year ago, with US revenues down 43 per cent following the loss of patent protection on Plavix (clopidogrel) in May and antihypertensive Avapro (irbesartan) in March.
Plavix was annihilated in the marketplace, with third-quarter sales of just $64m, 96 per cent down on the $1.8bn posted in the same period of 2011. Sales of Avapro and combination product Avalide (irbesartan plus hydrochlorothiazide) were cut in half from $216m a year ago to $95m.
While the impact on Plavix of generic competition was not unexpected, BMS suffered a setback in August when it was forced to discontinue hepatitis C candidate BMS-986094, and the $1.8bn charge associated with the write-off weighed heavy on the third-quarter figures.
Describing the current situation as "challenging" on a conference call, chief executive Lamberto Andreotti said BMS was in a transitional phase as it attempts to diversify both its product portfolio and geographic presence.
He said he was encouraged by the growth of newer products "partly due to progress with access and reimbursement abroad". Arthritis drug Orencia (abatacept) was up 32 per cent to $307m thanks in part to approval of a subcutaneous formulation in Europe, while Sprycel (dasatinib) for leukaemia gained 25 per cent to reach $263m.
There were also gains for BMS' saxagliptin franchise for diabetes with combined sales of Onglyza and Kombiglyze advancing 40 per cent to $178m, while melanoma therapy Yervoy (ipilimumab) rose 48 per cent to $179m and Baraclude (entecavir) for hepatitis B was up 11 per cent to $346m.
Despite the pressure financially, Andreotti said "a lot happened during the quarter that continues to give me confidence that we are on the right track", including the performance of new products, the acquisition of Amylin to bolster BMS' diabetes franchise and the expansion of its alliance with AstraZeneca (AZ).
He also pointed to BMS' pipeline, noting that the first diabetes drug co-developed with AZ - Forxiga (dapagliflozin) has been recommended for approval in Europe despite being rejected by the US FDA in January.
In cancer, Yervoy continues to generate great data in melanoma while another promising oncology prospect - BMS-936558 (anti-PD1) - has now started phase III trials in lung and renal cancer.
Pfizer-partnered blood thinner Eliquis (apixaban) is also making regulatory progress despite delays, with a positive opinion granted in Europe and a decision in Japan due by the end of the year, with the FDA due to deliver its verdict in March 2013.