Roche sales buoyed by cancer drugs
- Swiss drug giant Roche on Thursday said overall revenue grew by 6% over the first six months of 2016, fueled by continued incremental growth in sales of its "big three" cancer drugs and promising launches of several new products.
- In particular, Roche saw strong performance from the drugs Herceptin, Perjeta, and Kadycla, all three of which treat HER2-positive breast cancer. Also helping lift earnings was a one-time accounting adjustment to the company's pension plan, according to Reuters.
- Oncology has continued to pay dividends for Roche. In addition to seeing continued gains from aging blockbusters like Rituxan and Avastin, Roche is hot on the heels of Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck in immuno-oncology with its recently approved checkpoint inhibitor Tecentriq.
Roche confirmed its target forecast of low- to mid-single digit revenue growth for 2016 and reported a 6% increase for both its pharmaceuticals and diagnostics division in the first half of the year.
Overall group revenue hit 25,022 million Swiss francs (roughly $25.3 billion) through June 30.
Sales of Rituxan, Herceptin, and Avastin—Roche's 'big three' cancer drugs—increased by mid-single digits, although Avastin fared worse in the U.S. market.
But those three drugs are likely to face new competition in the coming years as several in-development biosimilars look set to enter the market. Sandoz's biosimilar version of Rituxan was recently accepted for regulatory review in the E.U. and Amgen (along with others) is working on copies of Herceptin and Avastin.
With competition looming, Roche is counting on performance from newer drugs to replace any lost revenue. Perjeta, which Roche has paired with Herceptin as a combination treatment, helped drive up sales of Herceptin while seeing strong growth on its own.
And sales of Gazyva, a treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia and follicular lymphoma, continued to grow. (Although Roche did recently hit a setback in a recent trial comparing Gazyva to Rituxan.)
But hopes are highest for the recently-launched Tecentriq, approved in the U.S. for bladder cancer. Similar to Bristol-Myer's Opdivo and Merck's Keytruda, Tecentriq is a checkpoint inhibitor targeting the PD1/PD-L1 pathway. Roche hopes it can quickly accelerate to blockbuster status.
"The launch of our first cancer immunotherapy medicine Tecentriq is off to a strong start," said Roche CEO Severin Schwan.
Sales of Tecentriq in the second quarter were roughly $19 million, impressive given the drug was only approved in mid-May.
While Roche still has to prove its new drugs can take up the mantle of Rituxan, Avastin and Herceptin, the company's positive performance puts pressure on its Swiss rival Novartis, which warned of potentially lower profits this year as it ramps up marketing of its new drug Entresto.
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