Genentech profits clouded by failed trial

Yesterday was a good news, bad news sort of day for Genentech. Sales of its cancer blockbusters Avastin and Rituxan drove second-quarter profits up almost 5 percent year-over-year, but the results still didn't meet Wall Street forecasts. And though the company raised its full-year earnings forecast, it had to stop a three clinical trials when the treatment--in combination with Pfizer's Sutent--induced anemia in some patients.

The second-quarter earnings details: Revenues hit $3.24 billion, up from $3 billion a year earlier, and profits ran at $782 million compared with $747 million. Avastin sales reached $650 million for the quarter, up 15 percent year-over-year, and Rituxan sales were up 12 percent to $651 million. The revenue figures satisfied analysts, but at 73 cents, earnings per share disappointed; the Street had expected 86 cents.

Now, about Avastin. Currently FDA-approved for treating breast, lung, and colorectal cancers, Avastin isn't approved for use in combination with Pfizer's Sutent. The company had been running a Phase II trial on the combo. Yesterday, the FDA announced that patients had developed microanegiopathic hemolytic anemia during that study, and Genentech halted it and two others looking at Avastin in combination with Sutent. The anemia cases resolved themselves within three weeks after the patients stopped using both meds.

- find the FDA alert on Avastin
- see the earnings basics in the New York Times
- check out the Wall Street Journal's take
- read the Forbes story