Boehringer Ingelheim sees drug sales fall, says rest of the year will also be tough

Andreas Barner

Boehringer Ingelheim is having a tough year with its drug business, seeing more than a 5% fall in sales in the first 6 months. The Germany-based company forecasts revenues will be down for the year as well, but it says by getting its house in order, its finances can improve after that. It has settled some nagging litigation and sold some assets, and it's about ready to launch some newly approved drugs.

"In the first 6 months we have brought many important issues to a favorable conclusion. We can now concentrate all our efforts on the development and launch of new medicines and on the expansion of our biopharmaceutical business," board chairman Andreas Barner said in a statement.

Overall, Boehringer Ingelheim's net sales were down €358 million, a 3% decline to €6.5 billion (about $8.7 billion) in the first 6 months compared with the same period last year, as foreign currency fluctuations took a toll. But pharma sales were just €4.8 billion (about $6.4 billion), off 5.4%. Its best seller was COPD treatment Spiriva, with net sales of €1.6 billion, it said. It pointed out that its diabetes treatment Trajenta did well outside of Germany, up 63% to €300 million, but it decided against launching it in Germany in 2011 when the cost watchdog there would not grant it premium pricing against existing treatments.

Much of what the drugmaker accomplished in H1 was in getting some of its "numerous changes and challenges" resolved. In May it said it had agreed to pay $650 million to wrap up about 4,000 lawsuits claiming Pradaxa, an anticoagulant, caused serious--even fatal--bleeding in some patients. That deal followed just weeks behind an FDA finding that the drug was as safe as the older drug it seeks to replace, warfarin, but the settlements allow it to move past the distracting litigation.

In May, Boehringer also agreed to sell Jordan's Hikma its generic injectable business sold under its Bedford Laboratories brand, for $300 million in cash and milestones. Then last month, it said Hikma would also take off Boehringer's hands its plant in Bedford, OH, that the German drugmaker closed at the end of 2013 after battling years of quality issues there.

Barner said Monday that with these issues behind it, the company can concentrate on launching new drugs, and it expects to bring 10 new products to the market in the next two years. In that vein, the FDA last month approved both its new COPD drug Striverdi Respimat and a new diabetes drug, Jardiance. Europe has already approved the diabetes drug and Boehringer said today that it will launch this month in Germany.

- here's the release