Roche's prescription drug sales hit by biosimilar competition, COVID-19 in Q4

Headline results for the fourth quarter:

  • Pharmaceuticals division sales: CHF 10.2 billion ($11.3 billion), down 15%
  • Overall revenue: CHF 14.3 billion ($15.8 billion), down 7%

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

What the company said:

"The demand for our new medicines which benefit people living with serious conditions, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, haemophilia and spinal muscular atrophy, remains high," remarked CEO Severin Schwan.

Other results:

  • Pharmaceuticals division sales in US: CHF 5.3 billion ($5.9 billion), down 21%
  • Pharmaceuticals division in international markets, including China: CHF 2.1 billion ($2.3 billion), flat versus the prior year
  • Pharmaceuticals division sales in Europe: CHF 1.9 billion ($2.1 billion), down 10%
  • Ocrevus: CHF 1.1 billion ($1.2 billion), up 1%, with "strong demand" in both indications offsetting the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Avastin: CHF 969 million ($1.1 billion), down 40%, hit by biosimilar competition in the US, Europe and Japan
  • Perjeta: CHF 954 million ($1.1 billion), up 11%, primarily due to international sales, mainly in China, in both early and metastatic breast cancer settings
  • MabThera/Rituxan: CHF 780 million ($864 million), down 49%, with declines in all regions due to biosimilar erosion and market contraction from the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions
  • Actemra/RoActemra: CHF 724 million ($802 million), up 20%, with the majority of growth in the US, as well as Russia, India and Spain
  • Tecentriq: CHF 723 million ($801 million), up 25%, with "strong" growth in all regions, notably in the US, driven by new indications
  • Herceptin: CHF 653 million ($723 million), down 47%, impacted by biosimilar competition in the US, Europe and Japan
  • Hemlibra: CHF 615 million ($681 million), up 34%, with continued "strong" uptake, especially in the US and Europe
  • Kadcyla: CHF 450 million ($498 million), up 16%, as increased demand was driven by its usage in the early breast cancer setting
  • Alecensa: CHF 319 million ($353 million), up 45%
  • Full-year pharmaceuticals division sales: CHF 44.5 billion ($49.3 billion), down 8%
  • Full-year revenue: CHF 58.3 billion ($64.6 billion; forecasts of CHF 59.4 billion), down 5%
  • Full-year profit: CHF 15.1 billion ($16.7 billion), up 7%

Looking ahead:

Roche said that "despite the continued strong impact of biosimilars," sales this year are expected to grow in the low-to mid-single digit range, at constant exchange rates, with core earnings per share increasing "broadly in line" with this. Schwan suggested that biosimilar competition this year to Avastin, Herceptin and MabThera/Rituxan in the US, Europe and Japan will erode sales by around CHF 4.6 billion ($5.1 billion), down from CHF 5.1 billion ($5.6 billion) in 2020.

Meanwhile, Bill Anderson, head of the pharmaceuticals unit, added that "the first half of the year will be relatively more difficult for the pharmaceuticals business, the second half will be strengthening."

Pipeline updates:

Roche disclosed that it ended Phase III development of its Akt inhibitor ipatasertib in combination with chemotherapy as a first-line treatment for HR-positive triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). The company also scrapped a late-stage trial of ipatasertib in combination with Tecentriq (atezolizumab,) plus chemotherapy in first-line TNBC. The move comes after results presented last year from the Phase III IPATunity130 study showed that ipatasertib in combination with paclitaxel as a first-line treatment for patients with TNBC failed to improve progression-free survival versus paclitaxel alone.

Meanwhile, the company also removed the anti-ST2 monoclonal antibody RG6149 in asthma from Phase II development, as well as the BTK inhibitor fenebrutinib, also known as RG7845, in rheumatoid arthritis.

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