Veklury rescues Gilead from COVID doldrums in Q4

Gilead’s COVID-19 drug Veklury (remdesivir) is helping the company through disruption caused by the pandemic and patent expiry on two HIV drugs, according to its Q4 results announcement.

In the final quarter alone, Veklury generated sales of just over $1.9 billion, offsetting a downturn in sales elsewhere in the business amid the disruption to healthcare services caused by COVID-19.

Product sales excluding the drug were down 7% compared with last year’s Q4, to just under $5.4 billion.

But with the COVID-19 drug sales factored in, the California pharma’s sales came to $7.3 billion, a 26% increase.

Veklury was one of the first drugs to treat the disease approved by the FDA using an Emergency Use Authorization and received its full licence in October last year.

In a conference call to discuss the results, CEO Daniel O’ Day noted that the company had already updated its guidance last month as a result of the “significant increase in the uptake of Veklury” in the US.

He noted that Veklury also helped to offset the impact of generic competition for its old HIV drugs, Atripla and Truvada, which lost their patient protection in October.

He said: “In the United States alone, hospitalisations quadrupled between October and January. And approximately one out of every two patients hospitalised in the US are being treated with Veklury today.”

He noted data from ACTT-1 trial showing the drug reduced hospitalisation time by five days on average.

O’Day said: “The higher uptick of Veklury, along with the continued growth of our leading treatment for HIV, Biktarvy, helped to offset the ongoing impact to the pandemic on some parts of our business. Veklury and Biktarvy also helped to mitigate the expected impact of loss of exclusivity for Atripla and Truvada in October.”

Sales of Veklury were mainly based in the US, where revenues were $1.2 billion in Q4 alone, with sales of $547 million in Europe and $150 million in the rest of the world.

It remains to be seen whether Veklury will gain traction outside the US and Europe, as the separate Solidarity trial from World Health Organization found it had little or no effect on length of hospital stay or mortality in preliminary results announced in October.

The company has increased its quarterly dividend by 4.4% to $0.71 per share of common stock.

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