Roche beats Q1 expectations on strong oncology sales
- Buoyed by strong sales in oncology and immunology, Roche reported a 4% increase in sales for the three months ended March 31 compared to a year prior. The Swiss company's pharmaceutical division, which makes up four-fifths of overall revenue, also saw a 4% increase.
- Roche's three major cancer drugs, Rituxan, Herceptin, and Avastin, all saw steady low single digit growth in global sales. In particular, Avastin saw a 27% spike in international sales, primarily attributable to expanded access for treatment of lung cancer in China.
- Looking at pipeline potential, the company is optimistic its anti-PDL1 immunotherapy atezolizumab could win FDA approval for second-line indications in bladder and lung cancer later this year.
Total revenue for the first quarter hit 12.4 billion Swiss francs, up from 11.8 billion francs in Q1 of last year. Roche anticipates low to mid single digit sales growth for the year as a whole, confirming its previous outlook.
Pharmaceuticals sales in Europe grew the fastest among geographic areas, increasing by 5%. Much of that regional growth was driven by the company's breast cancer drug Perjeta and rituximab, marketed as Mabthera in Europe.
In the U.S., Perjeta sales also saw notable growth, climbing by 15%, and helped boost Herceptin due to longer duration of treatment in combination with Perjeta.
Additionally, the flu drug Tamiflu did unexpectedly well, with sales rouhgly 100 million frances higher than forecasts, according to Reuters.
Roche expects to launch seven new drugs over the next three years, headlined by its anti-PDL1 immunotherapy atezolizumab. Venclexta, co-developed with AbbVie for the treatment of an aggressive type of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, already won approval from the FDA last week.
Atezolizumab has won priority review status for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer and urothelial carcinoma, the most common form of bladder cancer. As a PD-L1 inhibitor, atezo would compete with Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo and Merck's Keytruda which already have established themselves as promising lung cancer treatments.
However, Roche would enter the market with a new indication if atezo was approved for the treatment of bladder cancer. Neither Opdivo or Keytruda are approved for that indication. The FDA has a target action date of October 19 for the drug.
With Swiss rival Novartis set to deliver its quarterly results later this week, Roche has set a solid pace to begin 2016.
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