Bristol Myers' incoming CEO plots turnaround for struggling new launches

On outgoing chief executive Giovanni Caforio’s last earnings call, Bristol Myers Squibb had some tough questions to answer about a roster of underperforming new products. But according to CEO-elect Chris Boerner, it’s a question of “when," not "if” those drugs rise to meet expectations.

All told, the company’s new products—a roster that includes Reblozyl, Opdualag, Breyanzi and Abecma—brought home $928 million in third-quarter revenues, topping Q2’s $862 million. BMS expects its new drugs to generate $3.5 billion in total in 2023, with those expectations dampened slightly thanks in part to struggles with Abecma, BMS’ chief financial officer David Elkins said on a call with analysts Thursday.

Thanks to that lackluster performance, BMS now expects its new products to snare more than $10 billion in sales by 2026, rather than an earlier target of 2025.

For the entire quarter, Bristol generated revenues of $11 billion, down 2% year over year. The company blamed the downturn on generics chipping away at sales of Revlimid, which was partially offset by sales of new and core existing therapies.

On the topic of cell therapy launch Abecma, “in-class competition and dynamics with bispecifics” in late-line multiple myeloma have dampened sales, Boerner said.

To turn Abecma’s fortunes around, BMS aims to expand its manufacturing footprint and furnish doctors with real-world data on the drug. The company also plans to share its perspective that treatment with cell therapy ahead of bispecifics is “ultimately better for patient outcomes,” Adam Lenkowsky, chief commercialization officer, said on the company’s earnings call.

As for Zeposia, things are going well in multiple sclerosis, but in ulcerative colitis, “access has been a constraint that will require continued focus to unlock future growth,” Boerner said.

The incoming CEO admitted that for underperforming products like Abecma and Zeposia, BMS is “reorienting” and ensuring it has the “right resources” to focus on “delivering for those products."

“For the new product portfolio in totality, we continue to see very strong long-term potential consistent with what we’ve said previously,” Boerner said. “There’s been no change in the conviction for this portfolio; in fact, the question really is a question of ‘when,’ not ‘if.’"

BMS’ new launches—as well as the company’s recent $5.8-billion buyout of cancer specialist Mirati Therapeutics—are intended to drive growth ahead of anticoagulant Eliquis’ and cancer medicine Opdivo’s eventual losses of exclusivity.

Mirati and its KRAS inhibitor in lung cancer Krazati represent a “strong strategic fit” for BMS, Third Bridge analyst Lee Brown wrote in a note to clients Thursday.

As for Bristol’s stalwarts Eliquis and Opdivo, the therapies clinched revenues of $2.7 billion and $2.3 billion for the quarter, respectively. Eliquis’ performance was “essentially flat,” Third Bridge’s Brown said, noting that his team is waiting to gauge the impact from last year’s Inflation Reduction Act on the med. Of the 10 drugs selected for Medicare price negotiations in 2026, Eliquis represents the greatest Medicare Part D spend, Brown said.

On Opdivo, Brown said he was “impressed by Opdivo’s strong international growth,” which is being spurred by demand in first-line lung cancer, among other indications.