Sanofi beats expectations, driven by rare diseases and vaccines

Sanofi has beaten market expectations with its first-quarter profits, after a strong performance from its specialist care division, Genzyme, and its Sanofi Pasteur vaccines unit.

The French firm confirmed guidance for the full year, adding it is confident that eczema drug Dupixent (dupilumab) could sell well after US approval at the end of March.

Dupixent is one of the most significant approvals of the year in terms of sales – with analysts expecting sales in excess of $4 billion by 2022.

Net income increased 1% in constant currency terms to 1.8 billion euros, and total sales increased 8.6% to 8.65 billion euros, compared with last year’s Q1 figures.

Sales at Genzyme increased 15.5% to 1.6 billion euros, while the Sanofi Pasteur vaccines division saw sales increase 13.2% to 784 million euros.

Analysts had, on average, been expecting profits of 1.6 billion euros and net sales of 8.3 billion euros.

Reuters reported that chief executive Olivier Brandicourt said in a conference call that the company was “very encouraged with the early coverage” of Dupixent, adding that the company had “worked with payers in anticipation of the launch”.

But approval for Dupilumab could not come quickly enough for Sanofi, as sales of its key insulin, Lantus (insulin glargine), are sliding because of competition from a biosimilar from Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim.

In the US, pharmacy benefit manager CVS, which manages prescription drugs programmes on behalf of insurers, has begun to exclude Lantus from its formularies.

Another cause for concern is a legal showdown with Amgen over cholesterol drug Praluent. In January Amgen won a federal court case against Sanofi, alleging that Praluent infringed patents on its rival treatment, Repatha.

The court granted a permanent injunction against Praluent – in effect banning it from the US market – which Sanofi has appealed.

Sanofi can continue selling Praluent during the appeal process. The Court of Appeal is due to hear oral arguments on 6 June.

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