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Tecentriq growth offsets Avastin's US decline at Roche

Shifts focus to newer therapies in anticipation of brewing biosimilar competition
Roche

Roche's powerhouse cancer drug Avastin is showing some signs of weakness in the face of competition from immuno-oncology drugs, but new drug Tecentriq plugged the gap.

PD-L1 inhibitor Tecentriq (atezolizumab) brought in CHF 157m in 2016 - almost all from the US - which compensated for a 5% decline in Avastin (bevacizumab) sales to $2.96bn in the US. Strong international growth helped Avastin remain flat at just under CHF 6.8bn for the year, but with biosimilar competition looming Roche needs its newer drugs to deliver.

Tecentriq now has around 60% penetration in bladder cancer - its first approved indication - and according to Roche's pharma head Daniel O'Day has rapidly become the standard of care in the second-line setting and some first-line patients. At the end of April, the company will hear from the FDA on a broad first-line label for the drug.

Roche indicated it was too early to talk about market share, although Bristol-Myers Squibb conceded in its fourth-quarter presentation that Tecentriq was impacting its rival checkpoint inhibitor Opdivo (nivolumab) in second-line NSCLC.

Tecentriq was approved as a second-line treatment for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in October and got off to "a good start" in the last couple of months of 2016, O'Day added. Regulatory verdicts in first-line NSCLC are due in the coming months, allowing it to compete head-to-head with Merck & Co's Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in that setting.

Roche is hoping that while Avastin is likely to see some cannibalisation of sales from Tecentriq, combination use could support its older drug. It will shortly start a trial of the PD-L1 inhibitor in combination with chemotherapy for first line lung cancer - with and without Avastin.

Overall, Roche reported a 3% increase in pharma sales to CHF 39bn, and the company is expecting low- to mid-single digit sales growth this year. Along with Tecentriq and other new drugs such as targeted lung cancer drug Alecensa (alectinib), the company is hoping for approval of two new drugs - delayed multiple sclerosis treatment Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) and emicizumab for haemophilia A.

Roche is expecting some pressure in 2017 thanks in part to the loss of US patent protection for influenza drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) in December 2016, exposing around $500m of the brand's $800m annual sales to generic competition.

Article by
Phil Taylor

2nd February 2017

From: Sales

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