Gilead's Sovaldi turns in outsize Q1 sales

Powered by sales that averaged more than $25 million a day for brand-new hep C drug Sovaldi, Gilead Sciences ($GILD) beat all expectations, with quarterly sales that nearly doubled and profits that tripled in the first quarter.

The closely watched drug, which was approved only in December to high expectations, managed to blow even those away, producing first-quarter sales of $2.274 billion, the biotech reported late Tuesday. Total sales for the quarter were $4.998 billion, up from $2.531 billion in the year-ago quarter.

The $1,000-a-pill drug has generated a lot of pushback for its high price but obviously has caught on because of its stellar efficacy profile. Sovaldi boasts a cure rate of 90% of patients, who, if left untreated, would likely develop liver cancer or require a transplant.

Projections had been that Sovaldi would hit $9 billion in sales by 2017. Then in March, ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum said that based on his reading of early results, the drug could soar to $11 billion in sales this year. But if its sales continue to accelerate, which is what would be expected, then it could surpass even that.

Most of Gilead's other drugs also performed well, with HIV drug Stribild turning in $215 million in Q1 sales, up 134%.

- here's the announcement

Special Reports: The FDA's drug approvals of 2013 - Sovaldi: Gilead hits pay dirt with a breakthrough hep C drug | The 10 best-selling drugs of 2013