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New cancer drugs help drive Roche in first half

Perjeta, Kadcyla and Zelboraf support company growth

Roche Basel Switzerland

Uptake of new cancer treatments helped Roche to a 5 per cent increase in sales in the first half of 2013, while profits topped market expectations.

Group sales for the six months were 23.3bn Swiss francs ($24.77bn) while operating profit rose 10 per cent to 9.48bn Swiss francs. Earnings per share (EPS) were 12 per cent higher at 7.58 Swiss francs, ahead of consensus forecasts of 7.45 Swiss francs.

The firm's chief executive Severin Schwann said the company expects full-year sales to grow around 7 per cent in line with 2012, with EPS a little ahead of the sales increase.

Roche's established oncology franchise put in a robust performance, led by Avastin (bevacizumab) which rose 12 per cent to 3.09bn Swiss francs on the back of fast adoption in Europe for ovarian cancer.

MabThera/ Rituxan (rituximab) for blood cancers and arthritis climbed 3 per cent to CHF 3.40bn and breast cancer stalwart Herceptin (trastuzumab) rose 5 per cent to 3.08bn Swiss francs, both benefitting from strong uptake in emerging markets and particularly China where group sales rose 11 per cent overall.

The performance of Roche's newer cancer drugs was also encouraging, with first-line HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer Perjeta (pertuzumab) posting sales of 108m Swiss francs in the first half, despite only getting approval in Europe in March. It was launched in the US last July.

The company's antibody-drug conjugate for breast cancer - Kadcyla (ado-trastuzumab emtansine) - was launched in the US in February and Switzerland in May, and got off to a good start with sales of 83m Swiss francs in the first half. Meanwhile, malignant melanoma drug Zelboraf (vemurafenib) rocketed ahead, with turnover of 171m Swiss francs, up 84 per cent.

Away from cancer, another bright spot in Roche's figures was Actemra/RoActemra (tocilizumab) for rheumatoid arthritis, up one third to 496m Swiss francs thanks in part to data from the ADACTA study which showed it was superior to AbbVie's Humira (adalimumab) when used as a biological monotherapy treatment in RA patients intolerant to methotrexate.

The company has struggled outside of the cancer arena of late, however, having been forced to drop diabetes candidate aleglitazar earlier this month. Last year it also pulled the plug on cardiovascular therapy dalcetrapib.

Overall, pharma sales were up 6 per cent, while diagnostics climbed 3 per cent to 5.13bn Swiss francs, with gains in the clinical laboratory business offset by weaker demand for kits used in diabetes care.

Schwann refused to comment on Roche's rumoured $20bn bid for rare disease specialist Alexion, but said the company was open to additional bolt-on acquisitions.

25th July 2013

From: Sales



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