Roche announced its third quarter financials today, with its portfolio of oncology products such as Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Avastin (bevacizumab) performing strongly, and helping off-set the massive 60 per cent drop in Tamiflu (oseltamivir) sales.
The pharmaceuticals division reported quarterly sales of CHF8.9bn (€5.3bn), which combined with the company's diagnostics unit to contribute to Roche Group's CHF11.1bn sales for the third quarter, and sales of almost CHF34bn for the year to date.
As Tamiflu sales plummeted to CHF257m over the quarter compared to last year's Q3 figure of CHF669m, Roche insisted the decline was expected due to completion of pandemic stockpiling orders for the popular flu drug, and the lack of any "significant new orders".
Tamiflu sales for the year to date were only down 2 per cent down on 2006 figures, but results for Q3 were also negatively affected by the mild flu season in Japan, as well as restrictions put on the use of the drug in adolescents by Japanese authorities following cases of psychiatric problems in teenagers taking the medication.
Roche has forecast Q4 sales of the drug to be in the CHF150m - 250m range.
Roche's top selling drugs over the quarter (and the year to date) were in oncology, with the company's cancer products now accounting for half of the pharmaceutical division's sales.
MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab), Herceptin and Avastin all performed well, exhibiting strong double digit growth over the year so far.
MabThera/Rituxan for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was up 17 per cent on the first nine months of 2006, driven by use in its new indication as a maintenance therapy and increasing uptake in emerging markets such as Latin America and Asia-Pacific.
Roche also reported increased uptake of the drug for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, which will no doubt be buoyed by the recent recommendation of the drug by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence in England and Wales.
Herceptin continues to surge forward, with sales up 26 per cent globally for the year so far, but particularly high gains in Europe and Rest of World, where there was an impressive 42 per cent increase.
Avastin was up 41 per cent on the same period last year, hitting sales of almost CHF3bn, with Europe and Rest of World sales again showing impressive growth of 58 per cent.
Genentech, a member of the Roche Group's pharmaceutical division, has however come under fire recently for curtailing the use of Avastin as a cheaper substitute for Lucentis (ranibizumab), approved for treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration.
The company announced that it will be banning compounding pharmacies from buying Avastin from wholesalers and repacking the drug as a low-cost alternative to Lucentis, emphasising the fact that Avastin is not approved for use in the eye. The fact that Avastin is around 50 times cheaper than Lucentis however, has been suggested as a more likely factor pushing the company's decision.
According to Roche's figures, Lucentis has brought in CHF763m over the first nine months of the year.
Roche Group companies Genentech and Chugai brought in CHF2.6bn and CHF808m in sales respectively over Q3 2007.
The Group reaffirmed its outlook for the year, skating lightly over other perhaps noteworthy incidents such as the Europe-wide recall of HIV drug Viracept (nelfinavir), and emphasising anticipated above-market growth for both the pharmaceutical division and the group as a whole.