Upbeat Roche bests rival Novartis as new drugs fuel growth

ZURICH: Swiss drugmaker Roche on Thursday outshone crosstown rival Novartis by boosting its 2018 sales outlook, helped by new medicines in a year when many feared patent expirations and cheaper copies would put growth at risk.
Roche first-half sales rose 7 per cent in constant currencies, topping the 5 per cent rise Novartis reported last week. Its shares were 3 per cent up by 0710 GMT, outperforming Novartis’ 0.3 per cent rise. Chief Executive Severin Schwan now expects mid-single digit sales growth, up from a low single-digit percentage rise. Core earnings per share, including more robust benefits from US tax reform changes than previously expected, will grow in the mid-teen digit percentages, he said, up from the earlier prognosis of low-teen digit growth.
Schwan has insisted his pipeline of new drugs would more than absorb the hit from looming patent expirations on Roche’s $21 billion trio of cancer drugs Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan.
So far, he is right, with multiple sclerosis drug Ocrevus topping $1 billion in sales in the first half, Perjeta gaining traction in breast cancer and new lung cancer drug Alecensa’s revenue nearly doubling.
“Overall, we are very well on track to rejuvenating our portfolio,” Schwan told reporters on Thursday on a call. “I am very confident in our ability to continue our growth beyond the current year, despite the further market entry of biosimilars.” — Reuters