Mixed results from Roche's key new drugs in Q1

Roche Rituxan approval

Roche is relying on new drugs such as Ocrevus for multiple sclerosis and cancer drug Tecentriq to recoup sales as its big three blockbuster drugs are facing generic competition.

But first quarter results from the Swiss drugmaker show things aren’t entirely going to plan.

Although Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) is powering ahead after US approval in March last year, Tecentriq has not gained as much traction since approval in May 2016.

Overall first quarter sales were up 6% to 13.6 billion Swiss francs ($13.8 billion), but Tecentriq (atezolizumab) sales were 139 million francs ($141 million), well short of analyst poll estimates from Reuters of around 154 million francs ($156 million).

However Ocrevus easily beat Reuters analyst estimates of 406 million francs ($415 million), bringing in revenues of 479 million francs ($486 million) in the quarter.

At the same time cheaper biosimilars are eating into sales of Roche’s older blockbusters, Avastin, Rituxan/MabThera and Herceptin.

Between them the drugs generate $21 billion per year – but the Q1 results show this will not continue.

Sales of Rituxan (rituximab) were down 8% to 1.7 billion francs compared with the last quarter, with sales in Europe down 44% because of biosimilar competition.

Avastin (bevacizumab) sales were down 2% to 1.6 billion francs, while Herceptin (trastuzumab) was up 2% to 1.8 billion francs.

Herceptin is off-patent in Europe and due to lose exclusivity in the US next year, and rituximab has been off-patent in both markets for some time.

Although Avastin has until 2022 before its EU patent expires, a host of newer cancer drugs are hitting the market, doctors could be prescribing the newer Tecentriq in some cases.

GSK sales slip

Meanwhile GlaxoSmithKline saw its sales slip 2% for the first quarter to £7.2 billion, because of currency headwinds and a dip in sales of prescription drugs.

Profits were down 38% to £759 million, as the firm’s off-patent Seretide/Advair continued its long-term decline.

GSK is looking to a new range of respiratory drugs, such as its Trelegy three-in-one inhaler to recoup the sales from off-patent Advair.