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Roche's newer breast cancer drugs gain traction

Perjeta and Kadcyla boost 2014 revenues
Roche Basel Switzerland

Solid growth for Roche's breast cancer blockbuster Herceptin was backed up by big gains for two follow-up products in the last quarter for 2014.

Herceptin (trastuzumab) grew 7% to 1.6bn Swiss francs ($1.75bn) in the quarter, despite emergence of biosimilar competition in some smaller world markets last year and helped by the roll-pit of a new subcutaneous formulation.

Roche's breast cancer franchise was particularly boosted by the performance of Perjeta (pertuzumab) and Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine), both of which saw sales more than double to reach 285m francs and 165m francs, respectively.

"Perjeta was our largest single contribution to growth overall in 2014," commented Roche's chief operating officer Dan O'Day, who said momentum was building on the back of the CLEOPATRA trial results which showed adding the drug to Herceptin and docetaxel had a dramatic impact on survival in patients with HER2-positive breast cancer.

The strong performance in breast cancer helped Roche's fourth-quarter group sales rise around 6% to 12.7bn francs, with full-year revenues up 1% to 47.46bn, but 2014 net profit was pegged back by one-off restructuring costs, falling 16% to 9.54bn francs.

Elsewhere in the portfolio, top-selling blood cancer and arthritis therapy MabThera/Rituxan (Rituxan) slipped back slightly to 1.7bn francs in the quarter, while Avastin (bevacizumab) rose 7% to 1.69bn francs on new indications in ovarian and cervical cancer. Long-standing oncology brand Xeloda (capecitabine) succumbed to generic competition in the US, with sales falling 56% to 153m francs.

Overall, investors - used to three consecutive years of earnings growth - seemed a little disappointed by the performance and shares in the company fell on the results announcement.

Analysts are a little concerned that the company's premier position in oncology could become harder to defend, particularly in the face of growing competition in immune-oncology - considered the next big frontier in the cancer market - from the likes of Merck & Co and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS).

While Roche is lagging behind its rivals is the much-anticipated anti-PD-1/checkpoint inhibitor category with BMS and Merck both with drugs already on the market, O'Day said the breadth of the company's immuno-oncology portfolio - with seven candidates in the clinic - means it has a good chance of developing a leading position.

Roche is not expected to file its own checkpoint inhibitor MPDL-3280A until 2016, and by the end of 2014 had one phase III ongoing plus four phase II and 16 phase I studies. However, by the end of this year the company will have "at least 11 different phase III PD-L1 trials running," said O'Day.

 

Article by
Phil Taylor

30th January 2015

From: Sales

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