Roche Q3 results show steep fall-off in COVID product sales

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Roche's third-quarter results have revealed a clear sign that the bumper sales boosting companies that have provided products to diagnose, treat or prevent COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic are starting to tail off.

The Swiss pharma group reported "significantly lower" sales of COVID-19-related products that offset growth in other products like Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) for multiple sclerosis, haemophilia therapy Hemlibra (emicizumab), Evrysdi (risdiplam) for spinal muscular atrophy, and breast cancer drug Phesgo (pertuzumab/trastuzumab/hyaluronidase).

COVID-19 diagnostic sales fell from CHF 1 billion ($1.01 billion) this time last year to CHF 600 million, while therapeutics Ronapreve (casirivimab/imdevimab) and Actemra/RoActemra (tocilizumab) shrank around CHF 1 billion "as the pandemic continued to weaken in many countries in 2022," said the company in its quarterly update (PDF).

Despite the fall-off, Roche managed to grow its top line for the first nine months of the year by 2% at constant currencies, supported by a 6% gain overall for its diagnostics unit that was aided by the launch of a digital PCR diagnostic platform and new cancer tests.

The diagnostics performance helped to prop up flat pharma sales, pegged back by biosimilar competition to Roche's older antibody products including Avastin (bevacizumab), Herceptin (trastuzumab), and MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab).

The four growth medicines mentioned above – plus new ophthalmic medicine Vabysmo (faricimab) – collectively added CHF 2.2 billion to Roche's pharma sales in the third quarter and accounted for CHF 8.8 billion of its total pharma sales of CHF 33.19 billion in the nine-month period.

Among the highlights was a doubling in sales of Evrysdi – the only SMA medicine that can be administered at home – to CHF 793 million, a 150% gain for Phesgo to CHF 526 million, and a CHF 282 million contribution for Vabysmo in its first few months on the market, having been approved for age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular oedema earlier this year.

"Group sales grew 2% despite the expected sharp decline in COVID-19-related products in both divisions in the third quarter," said Roche chief executive Severin Schwann of the third-quarter numbers.

"The demand for our newer medicines for multiple sclerosis, haemophilia, spinal muscular atrophy. and cancer remains high," he added. "I am particularly pleased that so many patients with severe eye disease have already accessed our new medicine Vabysmo and started treatment."

For 2022 as a whole, Roche is predicting either stable sales or sales growth in the low-single-digit range at constant exchange rates.