Celgene expects 2018 growth as it moves past setbacks that cratered shares

Celgene is expecting $14.4 billion to $14.8 billion in 2018 sales.

SAN FRANCISCO—Looking to recover from a tough year, Celgene rolled out its 2018 guidance on Monday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco, predicting it will generate sales of $14.4 billion to $14.8 billion this year. The big biotech also touted strong growth for some of its stalwart drugs in unaudited 2017 results.

In its unaudited 2017 results—released early Monday—Celgene disclosed that it generated $13 billion in the year, good enough for 16% growth. Sales for blockbuster multiple myeloma medication Revlimid grew 17% to $8.19 billion for the year, while Pomalyst—which also treats multiple myeloma—generated $1.61 billion, 23% above its haul last year. 

The news comes after a year in which Celgene lost 13% of its value due to commercial and clinical setbacks. After Otezla came up short in the third quarter, the drugmaker said it was cutting $1 billion to $2 billion off its 2020 sales guidance. 

That drug, a 2014 launch to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, pulled in $1.28 billion in the unaudited 2017 results. 

Just before that third-quarter announcement, Celgene had a bad pipeline setback with Crohn's disease candidate GED-0301. After the drug failed to clear an interim futility review in a phase 3 study, the drugmaker had to scrap the trial. Celgene paid $710 million for the candidate for back in 2014. 

But on the same day as that setback, the drugmaker took aggressive price hikes on key moneymakers Revlimid and Pomalyst, pushing their cumulative increases for 2017 into an area many other drugmakers have avoided. 

Celgene raised Revlimid's price three times in 2017 for a total jump of 19.8%, and raised Pomalyst's price twice for a cumulative increase of 17.7%, according to SunTrust analyst Yatin Suneja. He predicted the increases would generate $80 million in 2017 sales. 

Celgene also announced on Monday the purchase of Impact Biomedicines for $1.1 billion up front. Through the deal, it picked up pipeline candidate fedratinib to treat myelofibrosis, previously a Sanofi drug before the Big Pharma abandoned the project due to safety concerns. Under the deal, Celgene could pay another $1.25 billion in regulatory milestones and a staggering $4.5 billion in royalties. 

The company plans to file for approval with the drug in 2018, according to Monday's release.