Cimzia and epilepsy drugs fuel UCB growth


Strong performances from its flagship products have lifted revenues of specialist pharma company UCB.

The Belgium-headquartered firm announced its 2015 results late last week, with revenues rising 16% in actual terms, and 9% at a constant exchange rate to €3.88 billion.

Jean-Christophe Tellier has been chief executive of the Belgium-headquartered firm for a little over a year, and has inherited a growing specialist company, focused on neurology and immunology disorders. The company will hold a press conference in London later today to map out its growth strategy to journalists.

UCB's growth last year was largely thanks to its four lead products – inflammation treatment Cimzia, epilepsy drugs Keppra and Vimpat and Parkinson's drug Neupro.

Cimzia broke through the € 1 billion (just over $1bn) sales mark in 2015, with revenues rising 36% (21% CER). It is set for more growth in 2016 and beyond, thanks to a new approval in rheumatoid arthritis in adults not previously treated with methotrexate or other disease-modifying drugs in Japan (May 2015) and in Europe (December 2015).

One potential threat to Cimzia's continued growth, however, is the increasing penetration of biosimilar anti-TNF drugs, both in Europe and now in the US.

Also recently approved in the EU and US is the company's new epilepsy treatment Briviact (brivaracetam). The drug is already launched in the UK, and further launches are expected over the year.

This adds to the company's growing epilepsy franchise, where Vimpat and Keppra are growing strongly, up 44% and 11% respectively in 2015.

Meanwhile, the first Phase 3 study of the company's new osteoporosis romosozumab has reported positive topline results, with further analysis ongoing. UCB is co-developing and co-marketing the drug with Amgen, with peak annual sales expected to exceed $1 billion.

Further analysis of the phase 3 FRAME study continues, with an anticipated potential filing expected later this year.

The firm also recently sold off its speciality generics business Kremers Urban to Lannett for $1.23 billion.

Chief executive Jean-Christophe Tellier said the company would also continue to invest in its pipeline, and predicted 2016 revenues of around € 4.0 - 4.1 billion

Andrew McConaghie

2 March, 2016