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Roche revenue gains as sales of breast cancer drugs soar


Roche Holding AG’s third-quarter revenue rose 4.5 percent as its trio of breast-cancer therapies offset stagnating sales of some of its older drugs.

Sales climbed to 12.5 billion Swiss francs ($12.6 billion), the Basel, Switzerland-based company said in a statement on Thursday. That compared with the 12.6 billion-franc average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Roche doesn’t report third-quarter earnings.

The world’s biggest oncology-treatment maker is counting on new breast-tumor drugs Perjeta and Kadcyla to help it stay in the lead. The next step for Perjeta will depend on whether it’s better in combination with the older blockbuster Herceptin than the earlier drug paired with chemotherapy alone in a study, dubbed Aphinity. Results previously expected by year-end will now probably come in the first quarter, Roche said. Success is crucial to meeting analysts’ expectations for $4 billion in annual sales for the new therapy by 2020, according to Sam Fazeli, a Bloomberg Industries analyst.

Shares of Roche declined 0.04 percent to 233.70 francs at 9:40 a.m. in Zurich. The stock has declined about 16 percent this year.

The company’s M&A strategy hasn’t changed, Chief Executive Officer Severin Schwan said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Guy Johnson and Caroline Hyde. Roche will avoid mega-deals and focus on “bolt-on” acquisitions, he said. Schwan also declined to comment on what cross-town rival Novartis AG may do with the stake it holds in Roche and whether his firm would help market the stake to investors.

Roche, cancer, drugs

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Avastin Drops
Sales of Avastin, a more than decade-old drug for colorectal and other cancers, dropped and Roche said a follow-on therapy called vanucizumab failed in a mid-stage trial. That leaves Roche without a replacement as competitors work on biosimilar copies, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analysts wrote in a report.

Roche is still studying vanucizumab in combination with other therapies, pharma unit chief Daniel O’Day said in a conference call with journalists on Thursday. The company will also look toward new medicines such as Tecentriq, an immune therapy that U.S. authorities approved this week for lung cancer, to change the way patients are treated and boost sales, O’Day said. Tecentriq will be competitive and is selling well so far, he said.

“That’s going to be part of the natural course of our portfolio when we set the bar high,” O’Day said. “Some things will succeed. Some things will fail.”
The drugmaker reiterated a forecast for sales growth this year in the low- to mid-single digits at constant exchange rates, with earnings per share increasing at a faster pace. Roche repeated that it expects to boost its dividend in Swiss francs.

Click here to set a reminder to listen to Roche executives discussing the figures on a conference call at 2 p.m. CET.

For the quarter, sales for the key drugs were:

  • Herceptin: 4.8 percent increase to 1.69 billion francs
  • Perjeta: 26 percent increase to 473 million francs
  • Kadcyla: 6.1 percent increase to 208 million francs
  • Avastin: 1.2 percent decrease to 1.7 billion francs

By Naomi Kresge (Bloomberg)

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