Gilead, looking to grow in oncology, posts big gains for its cell therapies and Trodelvy

After Gilead Sciences last year unveiled a plan to bolster its position in the oncology market, the company is making early strides.

Gilead delivered $670 million in oncology sales during this year's first quarter, good for 59% growth versus the same period last year.

Cell therapies Yescarta and Tecartus posted major revenue increases of 70% and 40%, respectively, reaching sales of $359 million and $89 million during the first three months of the year.

Yescarta, which last year scored an approval for the second-line treatment of large B-cell lymphoma, has seen uptake in that setting in both the U.S. and Europe, according to Gilead. Looking forward, there's still “a lot of growth opportunity" for the med, Chief Commercial Officer Johanna Mercier said on Gilead’s first-quarter earnings conference call Thursday.

Cell therapy drugmakers industrywide have weathered manufacturing hiccups, but Gilead isn’t worried about its Yescarta production capabilities. Its three global manufacturing centers are “a real area of competitive strength” for the company and its CAR-T subsidiary Kite, finance chief Andrew Dickinson said on Thursday's call.

Gilead is confident in its “adequate capacity” to serve the existing market, Dickinson said, and it prides itself on "forecasting where the market is going.”

“We’re always one or two steps ahead,” Dickinson added.

Meanwhile, cancer med Trodelvy delivered a 52% year-over-year sales increase, hitting $222 million during the first quarter. The drug in February scored a new indication in pretreated HR-positive/HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer.

Since its launch in the HR-positive/HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer market, the company has seen strong initial uptake for Trodelvy. Some of that uptake can be attributed to the overall survival data the drug posted and the “strong awareness” it has garnered, Mercier said. 

Gilead last April laid out a plan to generate one-third of its revenues from oncology products by 2030. For the first quarter of 2023, the ratio was about 11% when excluding revenue contributions from Gilead's volatile COVID-19 antiviral Veklury.

Excluding Veklury, Gilead's total product sales increased 15% from last year’s first quarter to $5.7 billion. Adding in Veklury, which saw a 63% year-over-year sales dip, Gilead's sales slid 3% to $6.3 billion. 

After the first-quarter results, Gilead is sticking with its previous full-year forecast of revenues between $26 billion and $26.5 billion. Veklury’s “highly variable” sales are expected to add up to $2 billion, depending on COVID-19 infection surges, according to the company.