Roche's Old Guard of Drugs Held Up Against New Foes Last Quarter

(Bloomberg) -- Roche Holding AG’s old guard of blockbuster medicines held their own against a new wave of cheaper copycats during the third quarter.

Their performance helped the Swiss drugmaker’s sales beat estimates. Bestseller Herceptin showed little change as the breast-cancer drug contended with so-called biosimilars for the first time in two decades of use. New medicines including Ocrevus for multiple sclerosis grew, but missed analysts’ estimates.

Herceptin will face competition from biosimilars in the U.S. in second half of next year, according to Chief Executive Officer Severin Schwan. The company expects to continue to grow even as the impact of the cheaper copycats intensifies, he said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

Key Insights

  • Herceptin’s performance suggests biosimilars from Merck & Co.-Samsung and Mylan-Biocon may not be stealing away sales as fast as expected.
  • Roche’s shift away from cancer treatments should continue to get a boost from Hemlibra, a hemophilia medication. Sales will probably kick into higher gear heading into 2019 thanks to a U.S. regulatory approval this month that cleared it for use in the largest group of hemophilia patients.
  • While multiple sclerosis drug Ocrevus’ sales more than doubled from the prior year, that missed estimates -- the drug’s revenue almost tripled in the second quarter of this year and was on track to hit about $2.4 billion this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
  • Earnings per share are on track to grow in the mid-teens this year at constant exchange rates, in part thanks to the impact of the U.S. tax reform.

Market Reaction

Roche’s stock rose as much as 1.4 percent to 243.95 Swiss francs in Zurich trading. The shares have declined 1.3 percent so far this year, compared with a 0.7 percent gain for the Bloomberg index that tracks the performance of 19 European pharmaceutical companies.

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For more details on the company’s revenue report, click here.

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