Copaxone sales lift Teva's fourth-quarter net income

Teva announced Tuesday that fourth-quarter net income reached $771 million, up from $379 million in the prior-year period, driven by higher European sales following the acquisition of ratiopharm and increased revenue from Copaxone. Quarterly sales of the multiple sclerosis drug climbed 26 percent to $938 million, and were 29-percent higher in the US at $655 million.

Overall sales jumped 16 percent to $4.4 billion in the quarter, although the figure fell short of analysts' estimates of $4.7 billion. European revenue in the quarter surged 43 percent compared with the year-ago period to $1.3 billion, which Teva noted was a result of growth in generic sales in Germany, Spain, the UK and Italy. Quarterly sales in North America were up 7 percent to nearly $2.5 billion, with contributions from strong sales of generic versions of Pfizer's Effexor XR and AstraZeneca's Pulmicort Respules, as well as Copaxone. Sales of generic drugs in the US fell 5 percent to just under $1.3 billion, which Meitav analyst Gilad Alper noted may be viewed as "serious" by investors. "Everything was weak outside of Copaxone," he added.

Natali Gotlieb, an analyst with Israel Brokerage & Investments, called the Copaxone revenue "amazing," and suggested that Teva was trying "to gain as much as they can before any other competition will arise" for the therapy. The analyst indicated that the 15-percent price increase for the drug introduced last month is likely to drive earnings this year, noting that the drug has gone from being the cheapest in its category of MS drugs to the most expensive. Teva said that Copaxone "continued to be the leading MS therapy in the US and globally," and recorded full-year sales of $3.3 billion, up 17 percent compared to 2009.

Overall revenue for 2010 grew 16 percent to $16.1 billion, while net income was 67-percent higher at $3.3 billion compared to the year prior. For the full year, revenue in Europe rose 21 percent to $3.9 billion, while sales in the US climbed 16 percent to just under $10 billion.

Teva indicated it currently has 206 product applications awaiting final approval in the US. The company said it may be the first to file on 80 of these submissions relating to products with annual branded sales in the country of more than $55 billion.

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