Boehringer’s blockbuster Spiriva under pressure, profits down

Boehringer Ingelheim has announced an increase in sales for full year 2018, but a slight decline in profits, as price competition began to affect its biggest selling drug Spiriva.

The German pharma’s net sales increased 4% after adjustment for currency fluctuations to 17.5 billion euros, but operating income fell by 0.4% to 3.2 billion euros.

Boehringer is also investing heavily in its R&D, boosting its expenditure in this area by 2.8% to 3.2 billion euros.

Overall the company’s human pharmaceuticals business grew by 5.1%, with increasing sales from newer drugs offsetting the impact of expiring patents on older drugs.

Boehringer’s lung drug Spiriva, approved for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, generated net sales of 2.4 billion euros, down 11.4% compared with last year, which the company said was down to increasing price pressure.

Its finance director Michael Schmelmer said the company hopes to offset the falling sales by getting new respiratory drugs approved, and the company hopes that Spiolto, more recently approved in the US in 2015, will bring in more revenues in future years.

In a question and answer session at the company’s annual results conference in Germany today, managing director Hubertus von Baumbach noted that Spiriva’s patent had expired in the US.

But he said that there had been “no significant impact” so far, adding: “We have taken steps that make us think that we could counteract any negative impact.”

Its Jardiance diabetes drug, developed in partnership with Eli Lilly, is beginning to gain serious traction after it became the first blood sugar controlling drug to show a benefit in reducing risk of heart problems in high-risk patients.

Its sales increased by 53% for 2018, and net sales totalled 1.8 billion euros, while Boehringer’s other big diabetes drug Trajenta saw sales increase by 9% to 1.4 billion euros.

The company’s third biggest selling drug, the anticoagulant Pradaxa, increased sales by 7% compared with the previous year, to 1.5 billion euros.

Boehringer also has a new blockbuster – the respiratory drug Ofev, which is approved for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and increased its 2018 sales by 29% with net sales totalling 1.1 billion euros.

The company expects more from Ofev as it has filed the drug with the FDA and the European Medicines Agency for treatment of interstitial pulmonary diseases in patients with systemic scleroderma – a rare disease for which there are no approved therapy options.

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