NEW YORK – Roche reported before markets opened on Thursday a 4 percent increase in pharmaceutical revenues in the second quarter of 2021, showing signs of recovery from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Roche Group reported CHF 15.78 billion ($17.19 billion) in total sales during the three months ended June 30, up 14 percent from CHF 14.14 billion in Q2 2020.
Revenues for the pharmaceutical division came in at CHF 11.07 billion, up 4 percent compared to CHF 10.94 billion during Q2 2020. Compared to the year-ago quarter, drug sales in the US were essentially flat at CHF 5.51 billion; up 15 percent in Europe to CHF 2.31 billion; up 7 percent in Japan to CHF 956 million; and up 4 percent in other international markets to CHF 2.30 billion.
The company's Diagnostics division sales in the quarter were CHF 4.71 billion, up 48 percent compared to CHF 3.20 billion during the same period last year.
Although pharmaceutical sales were down by 7 percent (or by 3 percent at constant exchange rates) in the first half of the year to CHF 21.67 billion in H1 2021 from CHF 23.20 billion in H1 2020, Roche CEO Severin Schwan said during a call to discuss the company's financials that drug sales were on the path to recovery in the second quarter and demand for new medicines and COVID-19 tests bolstered group revenues. "The business is really getting back on track," said Schwan, "and it's good to see."
"This portends well for the quarters we have ahead of us," Bill Anderson, CEO of Roche Pharmaceuticals, added during the call. The company reiterated that in 2021 it is expecting revenues to grow in the low- to mid-single digit range at constant exchange rates.
Among precision oncology drugs, newer treatments in Roche's HER2-targeted therapy franchise performed well during the quarter, with pertuzumab (Perjeta) sales increasing 7 percent to CHF 980 million in Q2 2021 compared to CHF 930 million in Q2 2020. Revenues for the HER2 antibody drug conjugate ado-trastuzumab emtansine (Kadcyla) increased 21 percent to CHF 481 million in the present quarter compared to CHF 409 million in the prior-year quarter. Meanwhile, sales of the established trastuzumab (Herceptin) declined 35 percent to CHF 641 million in Q2 this year compared to CHF 993 million in Q2 last year.
Roche's PD-L1 inhibitor atezolizumab (Tecentriq) netted revenues of CHF 824 million in Q2 2021, a 31 percent increase in sales from CHF 653 million in Q2 2020. Alectinib (Alecensa), a treatment for ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer, brought in revenues of CHF 333 million during the quarter, a 25 percent increase from CHF 272 million in the prior-year period. According to Roche, growth in sales from atezolizumab, alectinib, and other newer treatments in its pipeline helped make up for the negative impact of the pandemic and biosimilar competition in the US.
During the quarter, Anderson highlighted that pertuzumab became Roche's highest-selling oncology product while atezolizumab netted the second highest revenues, driven by strong sales in small cell lung cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, and hepatocellular cancer.
Oncology drugs sales were impacted during the pandemic because patients limited healthcare visits due to lockdown rules. Anderson noted that in major markets cancer patients' visit to providers and hospitals are about 96 percent of the way back to normal levels.
In terms of upcoming data on investigational precision oncology treatments, Roche executives highlighted that at the European Society of Medical Oncology's annual meeting in the fall researchers will present findings from the Phase II AcelERA trial of its oral SERD giredestrant in second- or third-line, estrogen receptor-positive, HER2-negative, metastatic breast cancer. This indication received fast-track designation from the US Food and Drug Administration after two Phase I trials showed encouraging activity of giredestrant in the post-menopausal, neoadjuvant breast cancer setting, as well as in patients with metastatic disease.
At the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in June, Roche released data from the Phase III IMpower010 trial, which showed that PD-L1-positive non-small cell lung cancer patients with stage II to IIIA tumors receiving atezolizumab had a 34 percent lower risk of death or disease recurrence compared to those on best-supportive care. Anderson said during the call that Roche has submitted applications to regulators and hopes to launch atezolizumab in the adjuvant, PD-L1-positive NSCLC setting in the US, European Union, and Japan in the coming quarters, possibly before the end of the year.
R&D spending by the pharmaceutical division totaled CHF 5.88 billion in the first half of the year, increasing 19 percent compared to the year-ago period, and general and administration expenses were down 2 percent to CHF 754 million.
Anderson said the company will invest in the coming months on advancing 18 new molecular entities in Roche's late-stage therapy pipeline, as well as in its other subsidiaries, including the next-generation sequencing cancer testing company Foundation Medicine and real-world data analytics firm Flatiron Health.
Net income for the Roche Group decreased 3 percent (but was up 2 percent at constant exchange rates) in H1 to CHF 8.22 billion, or CHF 10.56 per share, from CHF 8.47 billion, or CHF 10.44 per share, in the first half of 2020. The appreciation of the Swiss franc against most currencies had a negative impact on the results expressed in Swiss francs compared to constant exchange rates, the company said.
As of June 30, Roche held CHF 5 billion in cash and cash equivalents and CHF 3 billion in marketable securities.