Roche’s sales are helped by US flu season

City A.M. Reporter
A SPIKE in US demand for flu drug Tamiflu and strong sales of mainstay cancer medicines lifted first-quarter sales at Swiss pharma group Roche a bigger-than-expected five per cent, it said yesterday.

The world’s largest maker of cancer drugs said quarterly sales rose to SFr11.59bn (£8.1bn), ahead of analyst forecasts of SFr11.45bn.

The healthy performance in its main pharmaceuticals unit – which was also bolstered by approval of two new breast cancer drugs – offset weak sales in diagnostics, and the group confirmed its forecast of rising sales and profit for 2013.

Sales in the smaller diagnostics business were up just one per cent in the quarter with diabetes care down five per cent, due to stiff competition and pricing pressure.

Demand for Tamiflu – a smaller seller than Roche’s cancer blockbusters – accounted for half the beat in the pharma division, with sales surging 84 per cent following a severe US flu season.

Chief executive Severin Schwan said the bumper Tamiflu sales would not last and demand had already tapered off since the end of February. But he was “confident” of meeting full-year targets.

“Roche is off to a good start in 2013,” he said, adding that the firm continues to look for bolt-on acquisitions.