- Roche's pharmaceutical sales grew 10% in the first half of 2019, despite 757 million Swiss francs ($765 million) worth of sales erosion due to biosimilar competition for top products, the company said Thursday.
- The Swiss big pharma group raised its sales guidance to "mid- to high-single digit" percentage growth from "mid-single digit" after the first half performance.
- Pharmaceutical sales trends will be closely watched in the second half after biosimilars to top sellers Avastin and Herceptin entered the U.S. market a week ago.
Biopharma companies can only thrive in the long-term if they are able to replenish their offering of patent-protected products as they lose market exclusivity.
For Roche, this year is one of reckoning as Amgen and Allergan begin competing in the U.S. with biosimilars to Avastin (bevacizumab) and Herceptin (trastuzumab), which had combined sales of nearly 14 billion Swiss francs in 2018.
So far, Roche is showing no signs of cracking, and executives chalked the steadiness up to fast growth for new products such as Perjeta (pertuzumab), Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) and Hemlibra (emicizumab). Perjeta sales grew 34% over first half 2018 numbers to 1.8 billion Swiss francs and Ocrevus 63% to 1.7 billion Swiss francs. Hemlibra increased by nearly tenfold to 535 million Swiss francs, although it was very early in its launch in the first half of 2018.
Still, the biggest seller is the aging Avastin at 3.7 billion Swiss francs, and it showed 9% growth in the U.S. That makes for a big target for Amgen and Allergan's Avastin copycat, Mvasi.
If the biosimilars are successful in elbowing their way into a decent share of the market, that 757 million Swiss francs worth of sales erosion could be a bigger number by the end of 2019. Thankfully for Roche, a set of 12 new products contributed 2.5 billion Swiss francs worth of sales growth, the bulk of the difference between the first half of 2018 and 2019.
The upgrade to the sales outlook is the second one of the year. In reporting first quarter earnings, Roche raised from low- to mid-single digit to mid-single digit growth guidance.
One issue hanging over Roche is its $4.8 billion acquisition of the gene therapy company Spark Therapeutics, which is now facing enhanced scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission.
When asked by analysts during a conference call Thursday, executives said little about the review beyond reiterating their belief that the transaction will close by the end of 2019.