Revved-up Tecfidera sales power Biogen in Q4

Biogen CEO George Scangos

Biogen ($BIIB) CEO George Scangos and his team tamped down investor expectations earlier this month at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, saying that the company faced headwinds. But the drugmaker got those winds into its sails--and sales--this quarter, racing past Wall Street expectations as MS med Tecfidera regained the momentum lost earlier last year.

The drugmaker today reported Q4 earnings, excluding special items, of $4.50 per share, significantly above the $4.08 a share that the Street consensus was predicting, CNBC points out. Total revenue of $2.84 billion was up 7.5% well beyond the $2.71 billion that Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S had forecast.

Tecfidera sales were $993 million in Q4, up 6% compared to $916 million in the same quarter last year, Biogen reported, with $785 million of that in the U.S. The U.S. sales were helped by $30 million in inventory building the biotech said. Wholesalers often buy extra supplies in Q4 to get ahead of any price increases that might kick in as the calendar turns. Growth in sales of the drug had stalled earlier last year after the FDA tagged it with label warning for rare brain disease progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).

Sales of its newer hemophilia treatments Eloctate and Alprolix also kicked in much more for the quarter with Eloctate producing $320 million in sales compared to $58 million in the same quarter a year ago and Alprolix generating $234 million compared to $76 million.

For the full year, revenues of $10.8 billion were up 11%, while 2015 non-GAAP diluted earnings per share (EPS) were $17.01, an increase of 23% versus 2014, the company said.

Scangos, in a statement mostly looking forward, commented on his company's work on meds for the treatment of Alzheimer's and toward the potential launch of three new products this year, Zinbryta, Benepali and an infliximab biosimilar. Zinbryta is a new multiple sclerosis drug it is developing with AbbVie ($ABBV), while Benepali and infliximab are biosimilars of arthritis fighters Enbrel and Remicade it is developing in a joint venture, Samsung Bioepis, with South Korea's Samsung. The EU approved Benepali earlier this month.

What the CEO did not mention was the decision last quarter to whack 11% of its workforce, about 800 employees, in an effort to reduce costs by $250 million and provide extra money to push its Tecfidera sales.

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