Gilead continues to peg hopes of cancer business growth on Trodelvy momentum

Last quarter, Gilead Sciences said it was aiming to ramp up its oncology franchise. That goal played out nicely for the company in its latest earnings report, with third-quarter sales skyrocketing 79% year over year.

The company has long been a major HIV player, deriving the majority of its earnings from its HIV franchise. But Gilead hopes to become an oncology leader, too, and aims to derive a third of its revenue from oncology products by 2030, the company announced in April. 

It talked up drugs in both sectors during this year's third-quarter earnings conference call, with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer and advanced bladder cancer drug Trodelvy along with long-acting HIV medicine lenacapavir being the talk of the town. 

Increasing demand for Trodelvy and cell therapies helped drive oncology sales and offset overall declines in sales of Veklury, Gilead's COVID-19 drug. Total sales during the quarter decreased 5% from last year's third quarter. However, if Veklury is excluded, total sales would've increased 11%.

CAR-T therapy Yescarta was among the biggest drivers of Gilead's oncology business growth. Yescarta sales surged 81% to $317 million. Trodelvy sales increased 78%, and CAR-T therapy Tecartus sales went up 72%. Tecartus is the only CAR-T therapy approved in Europe for relapsed or refractory B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia and is approved in the U.S. as the first CAR-T therapy for relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma. Yescarta is FDA-approved for large B-cell lymphoma that’s refractory to first-line chemo-immunotherapy or that relapses within 12 months of first-line chemoimmuno-therapy.

The company feels “confident” that Trodelvy will prove to be “very well positioned” in the marketplace, said Johanna Mercier, chief commercial officer, on the conference call. The drug recently won an FDA priority review for its application in heavily pretreated HR-positive, HER2 negative breast cancer, setting up an approval decision by February 2023.

“We’re not done,” said Merdad Parsey, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer, in referring to Trodelvy. “Our excitement about Trodelvy has always been the ability to go into broad tumor types, and our strategy has always been to advance in earlier lines of therapy to generate positive data.”

Then there’s lenacapavir, which just recently snagged approval in Europe to treat multidrug-resistant HIV. The company’s crown jewel, its HIV portfolio, includes treatments that are meant to give patients options. Some want to make sure they’re taking an HIV drug every day, while others “don’t want to be reminded that they have HIV,” Mercier said. Lenacapavir, which is approved in Europe for use every six months alongside other antiretrovirals, will be “very appealing” to those who prefer less frequent dosing.

HIV product sales increased 7% to $4.5 billion during the quarter. Biktarvy and Descovy both saw moderate growth, with sales increasing 22% and 16%, respectively, year over year. Gilead still has a way to go before its oncology products can meet the targeted goal of comprising a third of the company's business, with third-quarter sales for the cancer division coming in at $578 million and total sales for quarter sitting at $7 billion.

The strong performance over the quarter, though, led the company to increase its sales guidance for the year, now predicting $25.9 billion to $26.2 billion in sales. Previously, the guidance was at $24.5 billion to $25 billion.