New Bristol-Myers drug growth cushions plummeting Plavix sales

Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) chose a good day to report its first-quarter results. AstraZeneca's ($AZN) declining sales and profits help blunt its own disappointments: earnings that dropped 44%, on a 27% decline in sales. Fortunately, the $3.83 billion revenue line was only slightly worse than analysts expected, given generic competition for blockbuster heart drugs Avapro and Plavix.

After all, last year's first quarter was the last full period before Plavix lost patent protection. Anticipating the sickening drop in sales, Bristol-Myers had already handed all ex-U.S. rights back to partner Sanofi ($SNY). So, the blood thinner's sales were destined to fall way, way short, year over year. That sickening drop--95%, to $91 million--left a major hole for newer drugs to fill. Avapro sales fell slightly less quickly--78%, to $46 million--digging that hole deeper. (BMS let Sanofi have Avapro rights, too.)

Which new products promise the most help in filling the gap? The much-anticipated anticoagulant drug Eliquis, for one. Developed with Pfizer ($PFE), the warfarin alternative is expected to be a major blockbuster, with $3.8 billion in sales by 2018. Its $22 million in the first quarter was half what analysts had expected, but it's early days yet, says ISI Group analyst Mark Schoenebaum. "We think the company will get a pass for another quarter or two," Schoenebaum said in an investor note.

Next, there's Yervoy, the melanoma drug approved back in 2011. Its sales grew by almost 50% to $229 million. If Yervoy continues on that upward trajectory, it would surpass the $1 billion blockbuster mark this year. According to Bloomberg, analysts figure it can hit $1.54 billion by 2018.

And then there's diabetes. Bristol-Myers last year bought Amylin Pharmaceuticals ($AMLN) and used its drugs to amp up a diabetes partnership with AstraZeneca. More recently, BMS teamed up with Merck KGaA to take on the diabetes market in China, planning to copromote various formulations of the standby treatment Glucophage.

- get the Bristol-Myers numbers
- see the Reuters news
- read the Bloomberg article

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