Roche’s diagnostic sales high thanks to Delta variant

SWITZERLAND – The delta variant’s high demand for COVID-19 diagnostics has resulted in rocketing sales at Roche’s diagnostics division, allowing the company to raise its sales forecast for the year.

Diagnostics sales increased 39% year on year to CHF 13.3 billion (US$14.4 billion), with the strong performance of the company’s COVID-19 test kits backed up by a recovery in other products as health services begin to recover from the impact of the pandemic last year.

In the first half, the company predicted that diagnostic sales would begin to decline in the second half of the year as vaccinations began to control COVID-19 infections. Still, it now expects high demand to continue into 2022.

Group sales increased by 8% to CHF 46.7 billion (US$50.93billion), while pharma turnover increased by 5% in the third quarter, bringing sales in line with the same period in 2020.

Roche’s pharma sales were hit hard last year, thanks partly to its strong oncology treatment position, which was harmed by pandemic lockdowns and biosimilar competition to its top-selling cancer antibodies.

Avastin (bevacizumab), Herceptin (trastuzumab), and MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab) saw steep declines, which were offset by gains for multiple sclerosis therapy Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), cancer immunotherapy Tecentriq (atezolizumab), and hemophilia A treatment Hemlibra (emicizumab).

Ronapreve (casirivimab and imdevimab), Roche’s Regeneron-partnered antibody combination for mild-to-moderate COVID-19, also made a significant contribution, bringing in CHF1 billion (US$1.09 billion) since it was first granted emergency use authorization.

Meanwhile, Actemra/RoActemra (tocilizumab) – an arthritis treatment that is now in high demand as a COVID-19 therapy – increased 30% to CHF 2.69 billion (US$ 2.93 billion) and could have increased further but for supply shortages.

The company now forecasts that overall sales will increase in the mid-single digits in 2021.

Because of an FDA emergency use authorization for hospitalized COVID-19 patients in late June and a subsequent World Health Organization recommendation, Actemra has become Roche pharma’s second-largest product by quarterly sales.

Actemra’s third-quarter sales increased 57 percent year on year at unchanged exchange rates to CHF 1.05 billion (US$1.14 billion), exceeding Wall Street expectations by 35 percent.

Actemra’s strong performance contrasts with the underwhelming performance of Roche’s top-selling multiple sclerosis drug, Ocrevus.

Ocrevus reported third-quarter sales of CHF 1.28 billion (US$1.39 billion), up 7% year on year at constant currencies; the first-time growth from the anti-CD20 antibody fell below 10%.

Actemra’s third-quarter sales increased 57 percent year on year at unchanged exchange rates to CHF 1.05 billion (US$1.14 billion), exceeding Wall Street expectations by 35 percent.

Overall, Roche’s pharmaceutical division increased sales by 5% year on year in the third quarter, to CHF 11.7 billion (US$12.72 billion).

The total sales of the Roche group increased by 9% to US$16 billion, thanks in part to the contribution of COVID diagnostics. As a result, Roche is raising its full-year sales growth forecast to the mid-single digits.

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