Gilead racks up 18% sales hike as HIV meds keep growing

Cue Big Pharma envy. Gilead Sciences ($GILD) posted an impressive 18% growth in fourth-quarter revenues, to a street-beating $2.59 billion. Sales grew even in Europe, where austerity measures have been eating pharma's lunch. Profits beat estimates, too. And all this while the company prepares for the prospect of a lucrative, all-oral cocktail for hepatitis C.

There's something of a catch; wholesalers did some stockpiling during the period, in advance of price increases that went into effect with the new year. Some $80 million to $100 million of Q4 sales can be attributed to that sort of "strategic purchasing," EVP Kevin Young said. But Gilead's full-year sales growth was almost as high: 16%, to $9.4 billion.

How much that stockpiling might affect sales this year remains to be seen. So, in the meantime, we'll just relate the nitty-gritty on the quarter. Antivirals grew by 17%--9% in Europe and 20% in the U.S.--with leading HIV drugs Atripla and Truvada turning in 6% and 12% growth respectively. The brand-new "quad" pill Stribild more than doubled sales quarter-over-quarter, to $40 million, while another new HIV drug, Complera, grew to $117.8 million.

Gilead is preparing for more, looking forward to a hoped-for approval for its anti-hep C drug sofosbuvir. The company reported new late-stage data Monday, saying it was planning to file for FDA approval mid-year. The data wasn't as strong as some had hoped, but the company is still seen as the front runner in the race for an all-oral treatment.

As Dow Jones reports, the company plans to boost expenses this year as it gears up for a launch. The company will be putting together a sales force that could hit the ground running if sofosbuvir wins an FDA nod next year. "Gilead will direct considerable resources to position itself as the commercial leader in the space," Young said (as quoted by the news service).

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Special Report: Hep C pill race report 2012: Gilead, others rush toward pharma gold