Roche's Q1 prescription drug sales rise 5 percent, driven by Ocrevus, Perjeta

Roche announced Thursday that first-quarter sales in its pharmaceutical division increased 5 percent year-over-year to 10.7 billion Swiss francs ($10.9 billion), driven mainly by growth for Ocrevus and Perjeta. The company noted that the performance was partially offset by lower sales of Avastin and MabThera/Rituxan.

CEO Severin Schwan said "we have started the year with strong sales growth," adding "I am particularly pleased with the strong demand for our new medicines, which contributed significantly to our growth." In the three-month period, sales of Perjeta climbed 18 percent to 613 million francs ($623 million), while revenue from Ocrevus reached 479 million francs ($487 million), besting analyst estimates of 406 million francs ($413 million).

For other new products, quarterly sales of Tecentriq grew 29 percent versus the year-ago period to 139 million francs ($141 million), although the figure missed analyst expectations of 154 million francs ($156 million) and came in just above the 132 million francs ($134 million) the product generated in the fourth quarter in 2017. Meanwhile, sales of Hemlibra were 23 million francs ($23 million), with Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Elizabeth Krutoholow noting that it needed first-quarter sales of about $10 million to $20 million to meet expectations. Krutoholow added that revenue from the haemophilia A therapy will likely increase in the second half of the year, when it is expected to gain approval for a broader group of patients.

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Roche noted that three-month sales of Herceptin rose 2 percent to 1.8 billion francs ($1.8 billion), while revenue from MabThera/Rituxan slipped 8 percent to 1.7 billion francs ($1.7 billion). Sales of MabThera plunged 44 percent in Europe to 282 million francs ($287 million), hit by the launch of biosimilars. In addition, quarterly revenue from Avastin dropped 2 percent to 1.6 billion francs ($1.6 billion).

"I am very confident that we can grow in spite of the entry of biosimilars," Schwan remarked. Overall sales in the quarter rose 5 percent to 13.6 billion francs ($13.8 billion), topping analyst forecasts of 13.3 billion francs ($13.5 billion).

"Based on our performance in the first quarter, we raise the outlook for the full-year," Schwan remarked. The drugmaker now expects low single-digit sales growth, at constant exchange rates, having previously warned that revenue could be flat in 2018. Meanwhile, core earnings per share are targeted to grow in the high single-digits, while excluding the impact of US tax reform, core earnings per share are seen increasing roughly in line with sales.

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