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Oncology portfolio is Roche's 'rock'

Swiss pharma and diagnostics group Roche has published record results for 2007, announcing double-digit growth for the seventh consecutive year. Sales in the pharma division grew at near twice the global market rates, outperforming them comfortably even disregarding the boost from extra sales of Tamiflu.

Swiss pharma and diagnostics group Roche has published record results for 2007, announcing double-digit growth for the seventh consecutive year. Sales in the pharma division grew at near twice the global market rates, outperforming them comfortably even disregarding the boost from extra sales of Tamiflu. 

A 10 per cent rise in group sales was solely down to organic growth, explained Chairman and CEO Franz Humer noting that operating improvements had also enabled the company ìto achieve an increase in earnings per share double that in salesî. 

The company reported a rise in operating profit of 22 per cent, to CHF14.5bn (GBP6.7bn), plus sales growth in the pharma division of 13 per cent (11 per cent without Tamiflu) while it also increased R&D spend by 18 per cent to SwFr7.6bn (GBP3.5bn). The Board of directors has proposed a 35 per cent increase in dividend.

Strong oncology portfolio

Rocheís oncology portfolio was a core driver over the year, with the division posting a 20 per cent rise in sales across all cancer products. Demand, the firm said, had remained ìvery strongî notably for Avastin (colorectal cancer), Herceptin (breast cancer), MabThera (non-Hodgkinís lymphoma), Tarceva (non-small cell lung and pancreatic cancers) and Xeloda (advanced breast and colorectal cancers). 

The company now claims to hold almost 30 per cent of the global oncology market, with sales from oncology products accounting for 50 per cent of its pharma sales. The firm gained additional indications for existing cancer products in 2007 ñ which will remain a goal for 2008 and beyond, Humer said.

Other key performers included the companyís osteoporosis treatment Bonviva, ophthalmology drug Lucentis, Hepatitis C treatment Pegasys and CellCept for transplantation. During the year, the firm launched Mircera in Europe for renal anaemia and filed Actemra in the US and Europe for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA); an agreement was struck up with Toyama for joint work on RA products.

Performance in 2008 and new products

As the lionís share of Tamiflu stockpiling for pandemic use has been completed, Roche is anticipating a marked reduction in sales of the product in 2008. In addition, a recent analysis of European flu samples revealed a higher level of resistance to Tamiflu than had been reported previously (for full details, see: http://www.pmlive.com/pharm_market.cfm?showArticle=1&ArticleID=6449). Excluding further stockpiling, however, the group hopes to achieve above-market sales growth, at a high single-digit rate in local currencies. 

The group intends to raise investment in R&D again in 2008, supporting development of several new compounds in late-stage trials, including pertuzumab (breast cancer), ocrelizumab (autoimmune disorders), a glucagon-like peptide 1 analogue (for Type II diabetes) and a cholesteryl ester transfer protein inhibitor (for dyslipidaemia). 

Growth through to 2010 is expected to be driven by the launch and sales of new products, as well as continued strong performance from (plus new indications for) existing oncology medicines. Pivotal trial data on the use of Avastin in early-stage cancer (as an adjuvant therapy) is due by 2010.

Overall, the figures indicate a strong 2007 performance with good prospects for continued growth, which Humer openly attributes to the companyís ìsteady focusî on innovation, research and the rolling integration of its pharmaceutical and diagnostic pipelines.

30th January 2008

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