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Roche: 6 percent sales boost in first 9 months

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JOHN HEILPRIN | October 17, 2013 06:41 AM EST | AP

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GENEVA — GENEVA (AP) — Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG on Thursday reported a 6 percent increase in overall sales for the first nine months of the year helped by strong demand for its established and new cancer drugs.

The Basel, Switzerland-based company said that its group sales over three quarters rose to 34.9 billion Swiss francs ($38.2 billion), up from 33.7 billion francs in the same time period last year.

On a quarterly basis, the world's biggest producer of cancer-fighting drugs said it had 11.6 billion francs in sales in the July-September quarter, up 8 percent from the 11.3 billion francs in the comparable quarter last year.

Shares in Roche were up slightly by nearly a half-percent to 246.80 francs in Thursday trading.

Roche reported it had strong growth from sales of cancer medicines Avastin, Herceptin, MabThera/Rituxan, Perjeta and Kadcyla, as well as rheumatoid arthritis treatment Actemra/RoActemra. Sales in the pharmaceuticals division rose 7 percent to 27.2 billion Swiss francs, up from 26.2 billion francs in the nine-month period from a year earlier.

"We will meet our full-year targets," he said. "I am very encouraged by the uptake of our new cancer medicines, Perjeta and Kadcyla, which significantly improve the survival rates of patients with a very aggressive form of breast cancer."

The sales of Avastin, which is used for several advanced forms of cancer, were particularly strong, the company said. It notched a 16 percent sales rise in Europe that the company said was due to its growing use in ovarian and colorectal cancers.

It said the outlook for its breast cancer medicines, including Herceptin, Perjeta and Kadcyla, was further strengthened in September after the European regulatory agency recommended approval for Kadcyla in advanced cases. The U.S. regulatory agency also granted accelerated approval of Perjeta for treatment prior to surgery.

U.S. and Chinese markets were particularly strong and sales grew by double-digits, Roche said, while European sales rose just 2 percent, despite the challenging environment, due to demand for specialty care medicines such as Avastin, skin cancer medicine Zelboraf and Actemra.

Roche, which last year had over 82,000 employees worldwide and invested more than 8 billion francs in research and development, also benefits from having several strong sellers whose patents will not expire soon, unlike many of its major competitors seeking the next blockbuster.