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Cancer drugs help Roche beat expectations in first quarter

Sales of Avastin and Herceptin show no sign of slowing down

ROCHEStrong sales of Roche's top three drugs - backed up by strong growth for new launches - helped the Swiss pharma group top analyst projections in the first quarter.

Roche's first-quarter sales grew 5% to CHF12.4bn ($13bn), with cancer drugs Avastin (bevacizumab) and Herceptin (trastuzumab) and arthritis therapy Rituxan/MabThera (rituximab) showing no signs of slowing down.

Sales of Roche's top-seller MabThera rose 3% to CHF1.83bn, with Herceptin and Avastin rising 4% apiece to CHF1.73bn and CHF1.71bn, respectively. There was also a strong contribution from Roche's influenza drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir), which performed much better than expected with sales of CHF367m in the quarter.

The company's chief executive Severin Schwann said the company has got off to a solid start in 2016, with "marketing applications of important investigational medicines … well underway".

In particular he highlighted new immuno-oncology candidate atezolizumab and ocrelizumab for primary progressive multiple sclerosis, both of which have been granted breakthrough status by the FDA and could be on the market this year and in 2017, respectively.

Roche is investing heavily in cancer immunotherapies and currently has nine drugs in this category in development as it tries to close the gap with leaders Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck & Co.

Among Roche's newer products, breast cancer drug Perjeta (pertuzumab) grew 33% to CHF439m thanks to increased use in combination with Herceptin in HER2-positive breast cancer, while arthritis medication RoActemra (tocilizumab) added 14% to reach CHF386m.

Esbriet (pirfenidone) for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and just-launched Alecensa (alectinib) for ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) also got off to a strong start - adding CHF172m and CHF29m, respectively.

Roche does not report quarterly earnings figures but said it was on track to meet its full-year target for a low- to mid-single-digit percentage growth in sales and earnings per share advancing at a slightly higher rate.

For now Roche has been insulated from any impact from biosimilar competition, although it does anticipate that lower-cost rivals to Herceptin and MabThera could become available in 2017.

Article by
Phil Taylor

21st April 2016

From: Sales

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