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Roche Q4 Pharmaceutical Revenues Up 14 Percent as Perjeta Maintains Top Spot Among Oncology Drugs

NEW YORK – Roche reported on Thursday a 14 percent increase in pharmaceutical revenues in the fourth quarter of 2021, with Perjeta (pertuzumab) holding the top spot among oncology products.

The Roche Group reported CHF 16.12 billion ($17.47 billion) in total sales during the three months ended Dec. 31, up 12 percent at constant exchange rates from CHF 14.34 billion in Q4 2020.

Revenues for the pharmaceuticals division came in at CHF 11.66 billion, up 14 percent at constant exchange rates compared to CHF 10.22 billion during Q4 2020. The company's diagnostics division sales in Q4 2021 were CHF 4.46 billion, up 8 percent at constant exchange rates, compared to CHF 4.13 billion in the year-ago quarter, driven by COVID-19 testing as well as its base business.

The company reported quarterly sales growth of its top 20 drugs at constant exchange rates. The HER2-targeted breast cancer drug Perjeta brought in CHF 981 million in the quarter, jumping 3 percent compared to CHF 954 million in Q4 2020. US sales of the drug in Q4 2021 were down 2 percent to CHF 337 from CHF 338 in Q4 2020.

Sales of the PD-L1 inhibitor Tecentriq (atezolizumab) for adjuvant PD-L1-positive non-small cell lung cancer and several other cancer indications increased 17 percent in Q4 2021 to CHF 838 million compared to CHF 723 million in same period in 2020.

During a call to discuss financial results, Bill Anderson, CEO of Roche Pharmaceuticals, highlighted that Perjeta and Tecentriq are now the two bestselling oncology products in the firm's portfolio.

Other drugs in Roche's HER2 targeted therapy franchise include the HER2 antibody drug conjugate Kadcyla (ado-trastuzumab emtansine) and the older Herceptin (trastuzumab). Kadcyla had Q4 2021 sales of CHF 522 million, a 16 percent increase from CHF 450 million in the prior year's quarter. Herceptin sales dipped 6 percent to CHF 633 million from CHF 653 million in Q4 2020, due to biosimilar competition. Alecensa (alectinib), a treatment for ALK-positive NSCLC, brought in revenues of CHF 368 million during the quarter, a 15 percent increase from CHF 319 million in the prior-year period.

For the full year in 2021, the Roche Group reported revenues of CHF 62.80 billion, an 8 percent increase compared to CHF 58.32 billion in 2020. Pharmaceutical sales inched up 1 percent to CHF 45.04 billion compared to CHF 44.53 billion the previous year, while revenues from Roche's diagnostics division grew 29 percent to CHF 17.76 billion from CHF 13.79 billion in 2020.

At constant exchange rates, from 2020 to 2021 Perjeta sales grew 4 percent to CHF 3.96 billion; Kadcyla revenues grew 16 percent to CHF 1.98 billion; and Herceptin sales declined 28 percent to CHF 2.69 billion. During 2021, Tecentriq netted sales of CHF 3.32 billion, marking a 24 percent increase from 2020, while Alecensa sales grew 18 percent during the year to CHF 1.36 billion.

Roche CEO Severin Schwan said during the call that the performance in Q4 and the full year show signs that Roche is recovering well from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. "We managed through this COVID-19 pandemic quite well," Schwan said, adding that on a quarterly basis the company's pharma business is also returning to growth, which suggests a diminishing impact from biosimilar competition for its legacy products like Herceptin.

In the fourth quarter, the company introduced several diagnostic and informatics solutions in the precision oncology space.

For example, in October, Roche launched the Avenio Tumor Tissue CGP kit for research use, which it developed jointly with its subsidiary Foundation Medicine. The research-use kit allows cancer centers to perform in-house comprehensive genomic profiling and analyzes four classes of genomic alterations in a panel of genes and gauges three genomic signatures: tumor mutational burden, microsatellite instability, and loss of heterozygosity.

Roche Diagnostics CEO Thomas Schinecker noted that the aim in launching the Avenio CGP kit is to expand access to tumor profiling among cancer centers and oncologists. And with the December launch of a new digital solution, called the Navify Oncology Hub, Schinecker said Roche is hoping to help oncologists overcome the outdated and disconnected electronic medical records systems within hospitals and allow them to aggregate and organize longitudinal patient data from different sources, make more personalized treatment decisions, and improve patients outcomes.

Looking ahead in 2022, Roche is anticipating several precision oncology drug approvals and key readouts from studies involving investigational therapies.

In October, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Tecentriq in the adjuvant setting following resection and platinum-based chemotherapy for NSCLC patients whose tumors express PD-L1 in at least 1 percent of cells. This year, the company is also hoping to achieve approval for Tecentriq in adjuvant NSCLC within the EU.

In the Phase III SKYSCRAPER-01 trial, the company is hoping to confirm the benefit of its investigational anti-TIGIT therapy tiragolumab and Tecentriq as a first-line option for PD-L1-positive advanced NSCLC patients. In the CITYSCAPE trial last year, the combination improved median progression-free survival in patients with PD-L1 expression in 50 percent or more tumor cells. The Phase II acelERA trial of Roche's selective estrogen receptor degrader giredestrant in second- and third-line hormone receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer will report out this year as well.

Schwan said he had expected the pandemic to dissipate by now and cautioned that he doesn't know how 2022 will turn out. He was cautiously optimistic that the pandemic impact will dissipate in Q2, but new variants could emerge later in the year. Given these unknowns, in 2022, Roche is projecting stable sales growth or growth in the low-single digits at constant exchange rates.