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Roche cites COVID-19 and biosimilars in Q2 decline

Pharmaceutical sales took a 4% hit in Swiss francs

Roche

Swiss pharma Roche is the latest pharma company to be hit in its second quarter results by the COVID-19 pandemic, with biosimilar competition adding to sliding sales at the half year mark.

Despite sales in its pharmaceuticals division growing by 1% to CHF 23.2bn at constant exchange rates, thanks to the continued strength of the Swiss franc against most currencies, sales saw a 4% decline when adjusted.

Much of that decline can be attributed to increasing biosimilar competition to three of Roche’s key cancer therapies – Herceptin (trastuzumab), Avastin (bevacizumab) and Rituxan (rituximab).

“We originally had predicted a biosimilar impact of about (CHF) 4bn for the year and we now think that the biosimilar plus COVID-19 impact will be maybe around (CHF) 4.7bn a year,” said Roche Pharmaceuticals CEO Bill Anderson in an earnings call yesterday.

Although sales of  Roche's newer drugs climbed by 37%, including haemophilia A treatment Hemlibra (emicizumab), multiple sclerosis therapy Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) and PD-1 inhibitor Tecentriq (atezolizumab), this was unable to completely offset the decline to its established franchises and steady the impact from COVID-19.

In fact, uptake of both Hemlibra and Ocrevus were partly impacted by the effects of COVID-19, with patients unable to visit hospitals for treatment as they would usually have done due to the pandemic.

On a more positive note, sales of the company’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra increased by 36% thanks to the continued evaluation of its efficacy against COVID-19. The med is currently being studied in a number of trials to treat symptoms of the disease, including COVID-19 related pneumonia.

Roche’s diagnostic division results were a mixed bag, with overall sales dropping 3% due to a decline in its routine testing as a result of COVID-19. Sales in the molecular diagnostics area were up 61%, however, as Roche’s recently developed cobas SARS-CoV-2 test posted strong growth and uptake in the quarter.

Despite the decline Roche has maintained its original sales forecast and is expecting growth to remain in the low- to mid-single digit range at constant exchange rates, thanks to signs of recovery in June.

“The coronavirus pandemic continues to pose an enormous challenge worldwide. I am grateful that, in close collaboration with health authorities, we have been able to make a number of SARS-CoV-2 tests available and start several global Actemra/RoActemra phase 3 studies in COVID-19 pneumonia,” said Roche CEO Severin Schwan.

“At the same time, Roche’s regular business was significantly impacted by the pandemic in the second quarter. But we now see clear signs of recovery,” he added.

Earlier this week, Novartis reported a decline in its second quarter results, with that decrease also attributed to the negative impact of the pandemic.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

24th July 2020

From: Sales

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