Note: All changes are versus the prior-year period unless otherwise stated
"Novartis delivered a strong second quarter, driven by the momentum of our key growth brands, including Cosentyx, Entresto, Zolgensma, our oncology portfolio and the launch of Kesimpta which continues to accelerate," remarked CEO Vas Narasimhan.
Novartis reaffirmed that it expects sales to rise this year by a low- to mid-single-digit percentage in constant currencies, while core operating income is projected to grow in the mid-single digits, ahead of sales. The company added that innovative medicine sales are forecast to make mid-single-digit gains in 2021 as well, with Sandoz revenue declining in the low- to mid-single digits.
The drugmaker noted that "while demand is starting to return to pre-COVID-19 levels in most geographies and therapeutic areas, we still see a slight impact on parts of our business for example in oncology, generics and certain geographies." Chief financial officer Harry Kirsch explained that the coronavirus pandemic was still affecting cancer patients' diagnostic rates, thus hitting sales of products sold via hospitals. He estimated that business was probably averaging 80% to 90% of pre-COVID-19 levels.
Novartis said it expects "further easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the second half of the year with a positive impact on business dynamics."
Stefan Schneider of Vontobel noted that the results clearly beat expectations, but Novartis' failure to lift its guidance "indicates that the pandemic situation has not yet returned fully to pre-pandemic levels and that the situation remains somewhat unpredictable due to the emerging variants."
Novartis disclosed that its recent FDA resubmission of Leqvio (inclisiran), an siRNA therapy targeting PCSK9, has a target action date of January 1 next year. The agency had previously issued a complete response letter citing "unresolved" issues at a third-party production facility.
The company added that it discontinued development of ECF843 in moderate-to-severe dry eye disease as results from a Phase II did not support continuation of the programme. In 2017, Novartis exercised an option to in-license the recombinant human lubricin (rh-Lubricin) protein from Lubris.
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