JPM: Gilead's Veklury, now used in half of hospitalized U.S. COVID-19 patients, delivers multibillion-dollar revenue bump

Roche Pharmaceutical CEO O'Day
Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day on Monday listed Biktarvy, Trodelvy and Veklury among drugs that would fuel the company's growth in the short term. (Roche)

Gilead Sciences unveiled a surprise Monday: It enjoyed a bigger-than-expected sales boost from COVID-19 therapy Veklury, better known as remdesivir.

But what changed since October, when Gilead last predicted 2020 sales? Hospitalizations are up fourfold, for one—and Veklury use is way up, too.

“One in two patients hospitalized now is treated with Veklury in the United States,” CEO Dan O’Day said during Gilead’s Monday presentation at the annual J.P. Morgan healthcare conference, noting that Veklury use in hospitalized COVID-19 patients is up from 30% in October to around 50% to 60% today.

The result? Veklury sales of between $2.8 and $2.83 billion for last year, Gilead said Monday. The California company now expects total 2020 sales to check in between $24.3 billion and $24.35 billion, well above the $23 billion to $23.5 billion range it had previously laid out.

“It speaks volumes to the role Veklury is playing in this pandemic,” O’Day said.

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But while Gilead is convinced Veklury has plenty more to give when it comes to fighting the pandemic—and Gilead has plenty more of it, with supply “greatly over the demand” around the world, commercial chief Johanna Mercier said—O’Day was eager Monday to lay out a vision for Gilead’s growth that excluded the antiviral.

“Biktarvy, Biktarvy, Biktarvy—that’s very important,” O’Day said of the products that would fuel Gilead’s short-term sales expansion. “Biktarvy is in a tremendous growth mode right now and will continue in this growth mode going into 2021 and beyond,” he added.

That’s not news to anyone who's been following the red-hot HIV med, which holds the title of No. 1 regimen across previously untreated patients and those switching from other treatments, too, Mercier said. But another drug O’Day name-dropped—Trodelvy—is newer on the scene.

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The centerpiece of Gilead’s $21 billion Immunomedics buy, the treatment is a “transformational” med for Gilead, to hear O’Day tell it. It’s put up “astonishing” survival numbers in tough-to-treat, late-stage triple-negative breast cancer, and it “clearly has potential in many tumors,” he said.

Gilead certainly hopes so. Its last major cancer buy—2017’s $11.9 billion Kite Pharma acquisition, meant to establish oncology as a major revenue generator after the Big Biotech’s hepatitis C business came crashing down—still hasn’t turned up the kind of revenue numbers industry watchers expected when the deal went through.