Roche Q3 sales boost sums up pharma hopes for cancer, emerging markets

Once again, Roche's ($RHHBY) quarterly results are a snapshot of Big Pharma hopes and travails. The Swiss drugmaker pulled off a 4% sales increase to 11.27 billion Swiss francs ($12.1 billion), with help from targeted cancer drugs and diagnostics. Oncology, of course, is one of the industry's most fertile fields, especially for drugs matched to patients with particular genetic quirks.

Herceptin, the original targeted cancer drug, grew by 12% to 4.4 billion Swiss francs ($4.7 billion), a change Roche attributes to better-quality HER2 testing and emerging-markets access programs. Newly launched Perjeta--an add-on for HER2 treatment--hit the ground running, with $26 million in sales out of the gate.

Meanwhile, MabThera/Rituxan grew by 10% to 5 billion francs ($5.4 billion), and Avastin stepped up by 6%. As Reuters notes, the growth in cancer drugs--plus a 27% hike in Actemra sales--helped offset a decline for Lucentis, which now has competition from Regeneron's ($REGN) eye drug Eylea.

And then there's the geographical split in Roche's sales. Fastest-growing markets? China (up 26%) and Brazil (up 13%). Those are two of the emerging markets the entire industry is looking to for future growth. International sales outside of U.S., Europe and Japan grew by 9%, to 7 billion Swiss francs, and now account for 21% of the company's overall sales. U.S. sales grew by 6%, to 10.27 billion francs.

Europe, on the other hand, was no friend to Roche's results. Ongoing pricing pressures and austerity measures depressed quarterly sales by 2%, to about 5.9 billion francs ($6.4 billion). The same period last year, Europe and emerging markets accounted for about the same fraction of Roche's sales--20%--but now, Europe has dropped to 18% as emerging markets gained.

"Third quarter results are once again a strong set of numbers," Vontobel analyst Andrew Weiss told Reuters. "(The) company continues to grow, while the rest of the industry is fighting against patent expirations and pricing pressures."

- read the Roche release
- see the Reuters story

ALSO: Roche says it's still interested in buying a gene-sequencing company, or building up its capability in the field internally. CEO Severin Schwan wouldn't comment, however, on the possibility of another run at Illumina. Report

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