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Roche posts minor sales miss in Q4 as biosimilar pressure grows

Swiss pharma still managed an 8% increase in pharma sales

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Roche came under renewed pressure from cheaper biosimilar competition to its top antibody drugs in the last three months of 2019, but still managed an 8% increase in pharma revenues that just missed expectations.

All told, the Swiss group’s pharma sales came in at CHF 12bn ($12.35bn), with its ‘big three’ antibodies – Avastin (bevacizumab), Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Rituxan/MabThera (rituximab) – all on the slide, with the impact mainly felt in Europe.

Severin SchwanRoche said new drugs more than compensated for the declines in these blockbuster brands, and chief executive Severin Schwan (pictured right) is still forecasting low-to-mid single digit percentage sales growth this year, even as biosimilars gather momentum in the big US market.

He told Bloomberg that the impact of biosimilars is expected to increase from CHF 1.5bn in 2019 – which was more than compensated for by other growth in other products – to an estimated CHF 4bn this year.

Schwan highlighted four of these newer Roche medicines as driving the sales growth, namely Perjeta (pertuzumab) for HER2-positive breast cancer, Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) for multiple sclerosis, haemophilia therapy Hemlibra (emicizumab) and cancer immunotherapy Tecentriq (atezolizumab).

Perjeta – used as an add-on to Herceptin and chemotherapy – has been leading the charge at Roche in recent quarters and added CHF 370m to Roche’s top-line in the last three months of the year, but seems to be slowing down with only a 4% increase on the same period of 2018.

MS therapy Ocrevus climbed 44% to CHF 833m in the quarter, while Hemlibra rocketed more than 300% to CHF 308m, taking its total for its second full year on the market year to CHF 1.38bn.

Meanwhile, despite some recent clinical trial knockbacks checkpoint inhibitor Tecentriq rose 136% to CHF 578m in the quarter consolidating its blockbuster status thanks to new indications in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

“Based on the progress made in rejuvenating our portfolio, Roche is very well positioned to grow going forward,” said Schwan.

Looking forward to this year and beyond, additional indications for Tecentriq and HER2-positive breast cancer antibody-drug conjugate Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine) will also help drive future growth, said Roche, although the latter is facing new competition from AstraZeneca/Daiichi Sankyo’s recently-approved Enhertu (trastuzumab deruxtecan).

There will also be growing contributions from new cancer drugs Polivy (polatuzumab) for lymphoma and tumour-agnostic therapy Rozlytrek (entrectinib), as well as potential new launches like risdiplam for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), tipped to become a blockbuster drug if approved.

Article by
Phil Taylor

30th January 2020

From: Sales



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