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Novartis Q3 Revenues Increase 6 Percent Assisted by Oncology Rx Sales Growth

NEW YORK – Novartis on Tuesday reported a 6 percent increase in third quarter revenues helped by growth in sales of oncology products, which the company expects to continue as global healthcare systems recover from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the three months ended Sept. 30, Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis reported $13.03 billion in revenues compared to $12.26 billion in Q3 2020, aligning with analysts' consensus estimate. The firm's oncology business unit sales grew 5 percent, reaching $3.9 billion in Q3 2021 compared to $3.7 billion in the prior-year quarter.

"In the third quarter, we have seen healthcare systems in oncology slowly returning back to normal, as patients' visits, diagnosis, and treatment rates are gradually improving," Susanne Schaffert, Novartis' president of oncology, said on a call to discuss quarterly financials. "We are seeing that new patients are continuing to accumulate, and [this is] expected to translate into growth acceleration in segments like recent launches and hospital-administered products by the end of the year."

Top sellers in the oncology segment included a handful of precision medicine drugs, including the firm's CDK4/6 inhibitor ribociclib (Kisqali), a treatment for certain hormone receptor (HR)-positive, HER2-negative advanced breast cancer patients. Revenues for ribociclib grew 27 percent in the third quarter to $232 million compared to $183 million in Q3 2020. According to Schaffert, ex-US uptake of the drug contributed chiefly to the third quarter growth, and this was particularly true in Europe.

Schaffert expressed confidence about ribociclib's future growth driven by its expansion into earlier disease stages and additional treatment settings. The firm is evaluating the agent combined with endocrine therapy as adjuvant treatment for early-stage breast cancer in the Phase III NATALEE study, which completed enrollment ahead of schedule. A readout from the trial, which Schaffert said could more than triple patient eligibility compared to the metastatic setting, is expected next year.

Alpelisib (Piqray), which is available in the US with fulvestrant for postmenopausal men and women with HR-positive, HER2-negative, PIK3CA-mutated advanced breast cancer, dipped 1 percent in sales, bringing in $82 million in Q3 2021 compared to $83 million in the year-ago period. Capmatinib (Tabrecta), a treatment for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer with a MET exon 14 skipping mutation, doubled in sales year over year, netting $24 million in Q3 2021 compared to $12 million in Q3 2020.

Novartis saw 5 percent sales growth in its BRAF/MEK inhibitor combination, dabrafenib (Tafinlar) and trametinib (Mekinist), which climbed to $417 million in Q3 2021 sales versus $397 million in Q3 last year. The company also reported a 20 percent increase in sales of its autologous CAR T-cell therapy tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah), which climbed to $146 million in sales in Q3 2021 compared to $122 million during the same period in 2020.

Novartis is gearing up to launch its targeted radioligand therapy, 177Lu-PSMA-617, for PSMA-positive metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer and in anticipation of that launch is conducting a physician awareness campaign. The firm has completed filing its new drug application with the US Food and Drug Administration for the product and is expecting a decision during the first half of 2022.

The company's European Medicines Agency submissions for the radioligand therapy is also on track, and the firm has begun to evaluate 177Lu-PSMA-617 in additional treatment settings and patient populations, including Phase III studies in metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer and mCRPC patients that have not received prior taxane-based chemo.

Novartis' net income in the third quarter was $2.76 billion, or $1.23 per share, versus $1.93 billion, or $.85 per share, in Q3 2020. Its core EPS was $1.71 this quarter, while analysts, on average, had expected EPS of $1.65. At the end of the third quarter, Novartis reported cash and cash equivalents of $7.21 billion.

Overall, Novartis expects that its revenue growth will continue, with mid-single digit growth percentages anticipated in Q4. "We remain confident in the pipeline and the launch brands to fuel our growth, not only in the midterm, but also in our science-based intervention for the longer term," said Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan during the call.