Roche chief accentuates Avastin's positives

Roche CEO Severin Schwan (photo) would like more problem drugs like Avastin. The executive defended his flagship cancer drug in an interview with Dow Jones, saying that $6.8 billion in global sales--and more than 1 million patients--are nothing to sneeze at. Sure, the drug may lose its breast cancer indication in the U.S., and sales growth may be slowing, but it's still a revolutionary product, he said.

"People talk as if Avastin is a problem, but it is a product with over six billion Swiss francs and it still has growth potential," Schwan told the news service. "Other companies would long for a problem like this."

Last week, Roche cut its peak sales estimate on Avastin to $7.3 billion from $9.4 billion, partly because of the FDA's decision to revoke the breast cancer use and partly because of the strong Swiss franc. Usual double-digit sales growth for the drug dropped to two percent for the fourth quarter.

Schwan admitted that Avastin sales for breast cancer have already dropped, even though the company has appealed the FDA's move. "We have seen a sharp decline of the sales in this specific indication in the fourth quarter," he said, "and we expect that sales will further decline for breast cancer in the U.S."

- read the Dow Jones story