Amgen tops forecasts for Q4, thanks to new drugs and higher prices

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Amgen ($AMGN) profits beat analyst expectations. And its sales grew by 11% in the fourth quarter. That's a feat, considering some of its biggest products--the anemia drugs Epogen and Aranesp--continue to slip on safety concerns. But don't get too terribly excited: Price changes accounted for a significant chunk of that sales growth.

Epogen lost ground to a new rival from Affymax ($AFFY), its first-ever direct competition. The drug's sales dropped by 1% to $479 million. The slippage would have been worse, Dow Jones notes, without a drop in the discounts Amgen pays to the dialysis centers that are its key Epogen customers. Aranesp, Epogen's sister drug for anemia in cancer patients, suffered a 9% drop in sales to $489 million.

Meanwhile, Neulasta and Neupogen, two of Amgen's other mainstays, also faded a bit, thanks to biosimilar competition in Europe, Dow Jones notes. Their combined sales fell by 1% to $1.3 billion.

So, how did the company's revenues grow? Its new bone drugs Xgeva and Prolia racked up gains, doubling sales year-over-year. Sensipar, an oral drug used in kidney patients, grew by 19% to $256 million.

But it was Enbrel, the anti-inflammatory for psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, that delivered the most growth in absolute terms. Percentage-wise, Enbrel sales increased 23%, to $1.16 billion. That's a $250 million hike, just for the quarter. New pricing fueled more than half of that; Baird analyst Christopher Raymond counts three price increases of about 7% each since the beginning of last year (one of those in early 2013, though). "Clearly that strategy is bearing fruit," Raymond told Dow Jones.

Some analysts are less than sanguine about Amgen's near-term prospects, the news service notes. And RBC Capital's Michael Yee tells Bloomberg that 2013 will be "a less exciting year" for Amgen, compared with 2012's "out-performance."

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