Roche looks to the future as sales fall

HEALTHCARE giant Roche shrugged off a fall in first-quarter sales yesterday, focusing instead on successes in new clinical trials.

Sales of SwFr11.1bn (£7.6bn) were nine per cent lower than the same quarter last year, but the company said it was on track to meet full-year revenue targets.

Roche said its key blockbuster drugs such as cancer treatment Herceptin and heart attack or stroke medication Activase supported sales while sales of swine flu treatment Tamiflu fell as expected.

Chief executive Severin Schwan said drug trial results were encouraging.

“Since the beginning of the year we have already announced positive results from seven key phase II or III clinical trials, further underscoring our growth prospects for the coming years,” he said.

The strength of the Swiss franc derailed the steady sales growth, however. Roche said it took a 1.1bn SwFr hit from the poor euro and dollar exchange rates to the franc.

Excluding Tamiflu, its pharmaceutical division saw three per cent dollar revenue growth, but an eight per cent fall in revenues when converted to francs. Roche’s Japanese and international businesses both registered 11 per cent growth in dollar sales.

“We are on track to achieve our targets for the full-year,” Severin said.

Its key cancer drug Avastin saw revenues fall six per cent as concerns about effects on patients damaged US and European sales.

Schwan said US healthcare reforms had also hit sales, estimating an impact of 0.6 percentage points on first-quarter sales in terms of growth.

Roche’s Swiss-traded shares fell 0.2 per cent to SwFr132.80 yesterday.