Analysts improve outlook for Teva's Copaxone as it shakes off Novartis competition

Teva did everything in its power to block generic copies of lead drug Copaxone from hitting the market. But now that one is here--Novartis' Glatopa--the Israeli drugmaker's giant is faring better than industry watchers expected.

Over the past two weeks, 5 analysts have increased their projections for Copaxone sales, Bloomberg reports. Consensus estimates put 2016 sales of the multiple sclerosis fighter at $3.29 billion--$362 million more than they projected 12 weeks ago. Consensus forecasts for 2017 and 2018 have also increased by at least $200 million, too.

"The drug is more resilient than we thought it could be," Leader & Co. analyst Sabina Levy told the news service. "Copaxone will eventually lose market share to generics and new multiple sclerosis drugs, but for the three years ahead, the situation is much better than we thought."

Copaxone showcased that resiliency in Q3, posting sales of $1.09 billion for the period to top the $923 million Wall Street expected.

It's great news for Teva ($TEVA), for whom the blockbuster at one time generated more than 50% of profits. Now, though, the company will have more "time to transition away from the Copaxone story," Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal wrote in a recent note to clients.

One reason: The Petah Tikva-based drugmaker has switched 76% of patients over to a newer, longer-lasting version of the drug, protecting those revenues from Novartis' ($NVS) copy. And while generics makers have taken aim at the successor drug, too, 2017 sales for the franchise will only suffer by $1.2 billion even if it's competing with two knockoffs on the market.

Of course, Teva isn't relying wholly on Copaxone to keep profits coming. Earlier this year, it agreed to shell out $40.5 billion for Allergan's ($AGN) generics unit, a transaction it expects to close early next year.

"Post-synergies with Actavis, ~60% of Teva's profits will come from generics; thus, integration of the company and overall generic trends are critical," Gal wrote.

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