Strong cancer drug sales drive Roche to an impressive Q1
- Biotech giant Roche reported strong Q1 earnings on Wednesday, including a 4% boost in pharmaceutical sales.
- Total revenues were up 2.9% despite significant hits in European and Japanese markets. That's because Roche's U.S. division saw a 13.4% year-over-year increase.
- Roche's biggest gains were in its oncology franchise, including a staggering 81% increase in sales of the breast cancer med Perjeta, 8.3% and 3.5% increases in Herceptin and Avastin sales, respectively, a 37% increase in sales of the asthma drug Xolair, and 22% increases in sales of Actemra and RoActemra.
One blip in the otherwise sunny earnings report was in sales of the wet AMD specialty drug Lucentis, which slid 3.2%. That might be attributable to continued off-label use of Avastin for that very indication—a touchy issue for Roche that has caused considerable controversy for the company.
In fact, Avastin has been proven to be just as effective as Lucentis for wet AMD but far, far cheaper. But Roche/Genentech isn't exactly eager to allow Avastin to cannibalize sales of a drug that brings the company far higher margins. The question is whether Roche can really stop the trend of off-label use.