Roche's fourth-quarter drug sales climb 6 percent, driven by new medicines

Headline results for the fourth quarter:

Pharmaceuticals division sales

11.3 billion Swiss francs ($11.4 billion)



14.8 billion francs ($14.9 billion)


Note: All changes are versus the prior-year period unless otherwise stated

What the company said:

"I am particularly pleased with the very strong demand for our new medicines," remarked CEO Severin Schwan, with key growth drivers including the multiple sclerosis medicine Ocrevus and cancer drugs Perjeta, Tecentriq and Alecensa, as well as the haemophilia treatment Hemlibra.

"Almost 90 percent of our growth comes from newly launched products, demonstrating we are successfully rejuvenating our portfolio," Schwan said, adding "based on the successful launches and our strong product pipeline Roche is well positioned for continued growth."

Other results:

  • Herceptin: 1.7 billion francs ($1.7 billion), down 6 percent, with sales in Europe plunging 34 percent to 354 million francs ($357 million)
  • Avastin: 1.7 billion francs ($1.7 billion), up 3 percent
  • MabThera/Rituxan: 1.6 billion francs ($1.6 billion), down 7 percent, with sales in Europe falling 49 percent to 185 million francs ($186 million)
  • Perjeta: 761 million francs ($766 million), up 31 percent
  • Ocrevus: 680 million francs ($685 million), up 84 percent
  • Lucentis: 428 million francs ($431 million), up 49 percent
  • Tecentriq: 248 million francs ($250 million), up 88 percent
  • Alecensa: 200 million francs ($201 million), up 69 percent
  • Tarceva: 113 million francs ($114 million), down 45 percent
  • Hemlibra: 111 million francs ($112 million)
  • Full-year pharmaceuticals division sales: 44 billion francs ($44.3 billion), up 7 percent
  • Full-year revenue: 56.8 billion francs ($57.2 billion), up 7 percent, above forecasts of 56.4 billion francs ($56.8 billion)
  • Full-year profit: 10.9 billion francs ($11 billion), up 23 percent

Looking ahead:

Roche expects revenue this year to grow in the low- to mid-single digit range, at constant exchange rates, with core earnings per share targeted to grow "broadly in line" with sales, at constant exchange rates.

Schwan said that Roche continues to benefit from growth in China, where sales of older medicines have increased. "Volumes have really soared," he remarked, adding "I would expect the momentum to continue in 2019." However, the CEO cautioned that biosimilar competition to some of its products in the US is expected to intensify in the second half of the year.

The executive also indicated that Roche's focus on smaller, bolt-on acquisitions would not change despite Bristol-Myers Squibb's recent offer to buy Celgene for $74 billion. "We are not into the mega-mergers," Schwan commented.

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