Big Enbrel beat, lower expenses help Amgen top Q1 forecasts

Amgen HQ

Amgen’s massive cost-cutting drive paid off in Q1, helping propel the company to an earnings beat. That wasn’t the only factor pushing it toward success, though, as several products also recorded estimate-busting sales figures to help revenue top forecasts.

Thursday after market close, the Big Biotech unveiled Street-besting sales figures on Enbrel, Neulasta, Aranesp, Xgeva, Prolia and Vectibex; those brought overall revenue to a $5.53 billion mark that handily beat consensus estimates of $5.30 billion.

Enbrel, in particular, came up big, with sales growing 24% year-over-year to reach $1.33 billion. While the med lost 1% market share in the dermatology arena amid new competition from next-gen players, it picked up share in rheumatology, which generates the vast majority of its sales, execs said on the Q1 conference call. A 20% year-over-year price increase on the behemoth med didn’t hurt, either, Evercore ISI analyst Mark Schoenebaum pointed out in a note to clients.

That’s not to say it was all rosy in the sales department. For the first time, the California drugmaker broke out sales of PCSK9 newcomer Repatha, and they weren’t where analysts thought they’d be. In the U.S., the drug--which competes head-to-head with Sanofi and Regeneron’s Praluent--drummed up $14 million, chipping in with $2 million internationally. Those figures fell short of sales figures that measured $18 million in the U.S. and $7 million abroad. One big reason?  About 77% of prescriptions are being rejected at the pharmacy, Tony Hooper, head of the company’s commercial ops, said on a conference call with investors.

Neupogen fell on hard times in the U.S., too, ringing up $150 million to miss its $171 million mark. It’s currently facing challenger Zarxio from Novartis--the first biosimilar ever to hit the U.S. market--and on that front, execs said the competitive landscape was playing out “as we generally expected.”

“We’ll continue to compete account by account as competition intensifies,” they said on the call.

But back on the positive side, lower-than-anticipated expenses gave Amgen’s bottom line a lift, with adjusted EPS leaping 17% to hit $2.90. The company kick-started a company-wide restructuring back in 2014 that claimed more than 2,000 jobs and helped keep spending down for the quarter.

In light of the Q1 performance, Amgen says it now expects 2016 revenues to tally between $22.2 billion to $22.6 billion, up from a previous range of $22 billion to $22. 5 billion. The company also upped its EPS guidance, predicting its final figure would hit between $10.85 and $11.20--putting even the low end above consensus estimates of $10.82, Schoenebaum pointed out.

- read Amgen's release 

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