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Strong sales in breast cancer lift Roche revenues

New products Perjeta and Kadcyla lead growth
Roche Basel Switzerland

Rocketing sales of Roche's new breast cancer drugs Perjeta and Kadcyla suggest they will cushion any impact from biosimilar competition to Herceptin, which is due to lose patent protection in the EU this year.

Sales of Perjeta (pertuzumab) more than tripled to reach 245m Swiss francs ($260m) in the third quarter, while antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine) doubled its turnover to 144m francs versus the same period of 2013.

The two new drugs for HER2-positive breast cancer reinforced a solid performance by Herceptin (trastuzumab), which grew 9% to 1.6bn francs at constant exchange rates. Last month, Roche reported new clinical data showing a dramatic increase in survival when Perjeta and Herceptin are used in combination.

Roche Kadcyla trastuzumab emtansine cancer 

Kadcyla is approved for the treatment of advanced HER2-positive breast cancer

Herceptin could face biosimilar competition in its first markets - including the UK - later this year, although it retains patent protection in the US, which accounts for a little over 30% of total sales, until 2019.

Roche's biggest product - MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab) for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and arthritis - saw sales slip by a little over 2% in real terms to 1.76bn francs, although stripping out currency effects meant it grew slightly, according to Roche.  It did particularly well in Europe - driven by increased market share in follicular lymphoma and a new first-line indication in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) - but sales were flat in the US.

Meanwhile, Avastin (bevacizumab) grew 6% to 1.65bn francs, helped by new approvals in cervical cancer in the US and platinum-resistant ovarian cancer in Europe, which helped offset declines for chemotherapy Xeloda (capecitabine) and hepatitis drug Pegasys (peginterferon alfa).

Roche's top five drugs for the first nine months of 2014

Product
 Therapy area
Sales (Swiss francs m)
MabThera/Rituxan
Oncology5,124
Avastin
Oncology4,749
Herceptin
Oncology4,670
LucentisOphthalmology1,260
Tarceva
Oncology971

All told, Roche's pharmaceutical sales rose 4% to 9.13bn francs in the third quarter, a little ahead of analyst expectations, while its diagnostics division added 7% to reach 2.65bn francs.

"Demand for our products is strong in both divisions and we are well on track to reach our full-year targets," said chief executive Severin Schwan in a statement.

The company confirmed earlier guidance of low- to mid-single-digit sales growth this year at constant exchange rates and for core earnings per share (EPS) to grow ahead of sales.

Esbriet approval

There was also good news for Roche following its recent $8.3bn acquisition of US company InterMune, with the FDA granting approval yesterday to the biotech's key product Esbriet (pirfenidone) for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) alongside a rival therapy from Boehringer Ingelheim called Ofev (nintedanib).

Article by
Phil Taylor

16th October 2014

From: Research, Sales

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