Amgen's Key New Drug Beats Estimates After Two Quarterly Misses

(Bloomberg) -- Amgen Inc. offered some signs of optimism after disappointing results in recent months.

Sales of its cholesterol-cutting drug Repatha topped analysts’ estimates in the first quarter following two quarterly misses. Uptake for the treatment, once seen as an instant blockbuster, had been slow in the second part of last year as insurers balked because of its high price and potentially large number of patients.

Repatha received a new label in December from U.S. regulators after a study showed it reduced heart risks -- though not as much as some had expected -- and Amgen hoped it might expand patients’ access to the drug. The drug brought in $123 million, compared with the $104 million average of predictions.

Amgen shares rose 1.2 percent to $174 after in after-hours trading

Like other large biotechnology companies, Amgen must find new drivers of growth in the next few years as its blockbusters age -- making Repatha a key focus for investors. The company’s best-seller, rheumatoid arthritis treatment Enbrel, is facing competition, and was outsold by the second-biggest product, a drug that boosts the immune system, last quarter.

Amgen is in a comparatively better financial position than its peers, having one of the largest cash hoards in the industry, which it used last quarter to buy back about $11 billion of its own shares.

Earnings and revenue also beat estimates last quarter, and Amgen raised the lower end of its full-year profit forecast range.

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