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New drugs can't keep Novartis sales on the up

Total group sales down 1% despite Cosentyx profit

Novartis

The continued glacial growth of Novartis' heart failure hope Entresto weighed on its first-quarter results as sales declined on generic competition.

Novartis predicts Entresto (sacubitril/valsartan) will be a blockbuster in time but take-up of the drug remains sluggish with sales coming in at $84m, up from $68m in the last quarter of 2016 and still well below initial expectations. The cost of promoting the new drug with an enlarged salesforce is also weighing on Novartis’ operating profit, which fell 22% to $1.9bn in the quarter.

The company's other recent launch Cosentyx (secukinumab) for psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis is doing much better, rising 136% to $410m, but the gains were not enough to fully compensate for a $290m reduction in sales of cancer drug Glivec (imatinib) to $544m, with overall group sales down 1% to $11.53bn.

With Entresto under-performing, Novartis will be hopeful of a rapid take-up for newly-approved breast cancer therapy Kisqali (ribociclib; LEE011), a CDK4/6 inhibitor that will compete with Pfizer's blockbuster Ibrance (palbociclib) and has been tipped to reach $1.2bn in sales by 2020, as well as CAR-T candidate CTL109 which could get an FDA verdict later this year.

A decision to drop development of acute heart failure drug serelaxin (RLX030) also pegged back Novartis' profits, forcing the company to take a charge of $200m in the quarter. Meanwhile, eyecare division Alcon - which is struggling to handle growing competition in the market and may be sold or spun off - posted another small (1%) decline in sales.

The company's chief executive Joe Jimenez said that the performance in the first quarter was "solid", adding that the “innovation momentum” with Kisqali and CTL109 "reinforces our confidence in our next growth phase, which we expect to start in 2018".

Article by
Phil Taylor

25th April 2017

From: Sales

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