Boehringer sales tick upward 3% on big Pradaxa leap

Boehringer Ingelheim's drugs Pradaxa and Trajenta are both facing obstacles, but sales of both are still growing--and revenues for the company are growing right along with them. Wednesday, the German drugmaker announced that it had upped sales in the first half of 2013, delivering growth in the face of market stagnation, stiffer competition and pricing controls.

Boehringer's sales inched to about €7.1 billion ($9.4 billion) in the first half of 2013, a 3.1% increase over the same period last year. Hubertus von Baumbach, a managing director, cited "difficult financial circumstances" but said Boehringer expects its sales growth--in the low single digits--to beat the market this year. "In a stagnating world pharmaceutical market … this corresponds to a figure that will be above-market, in keeping with our long-term direction," he said in a statement.

Pharma sales rose by 3.5% to €5.34 billion ($7.07 billion), accounting for 75% of revenues, the company said. Best-selling Spiriva, a treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, led the way with €1.82 billion ($2.41 billion) in sales. But it was the oral anticoagulant Pradaxa that leapt upward most, with 27.9% growth to €612 million ($811 million). The Type 2 diabetes med Trajenta also turned in solid growth numbers, the company said.

Pradaxa was expected to face tougher competition this year, now that Pfizer ($PFE) and Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) much-anticipated Eliquis has hit the market. But so far, that drug is struggling mightily. Once expected to become a multibillion-dollar blockbuster, Eliquis brought in only $12 million for the second quarter, down from $17 million for the first quarter of the year. Analysts cut their sales forecasts to $615 million by 2016. By contrast, Pradaxa's 27.9% growth followed a sales jump of more than 76% between 2011 and 2012, when the drug reached blockbuster territory with $1.1 billion in sales.

Worries about serious side effects, after reports of bleeding-related deaths, don't appear to be holding the drug back much, either; Boehringer says the stats bear out the numbers seen in clinical trials, but some doctors have grown wary because the drug so far lacks a proven, fast-acting antidote.

And then there is the newly launched diabetes treatment Trajenta, which has suffered at the hands of Germany's pricing framework. Trajenta was deemed to provide "no additional benefit" over existing therapies, a decision that would have stuck Boehringer with lower-than-desirable prices. Boehringer, along with Trajenta partner Eli Lilly ($LLY), decided not to launch in its home country. Still, Trajenta achieved net sales of around €200 million ($265 million) in the first half of the year.

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