(Reuters) – Biogen Inc beat analysts’ estimates for fourth-quarter profit and revenue on Tuesday, buoyed by higher sales of its top-selling multiple sclerosis drugs, and forecast full-year profit ahead of Wall Street expectations.
Multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera is facing competition from newer treatments such as Roche Holding AG’s Ocrevus, and Biogen has been banking on its spinal muscular atrophy treatment, Spinraza, to drive future growth.
Tecfidera (Dimethyl fumarate)
In the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, sales from the company’s multiple sclerosis franchise, which also includes Tysabri, came in at $2.17 billion, beating consensus estimates of $2.14 billion, according to William Blair.
Sales of Spinraza, the first approved treatment for spinal muscular atrophy, rose 29.5 percent to $470 million, but fell short of analysts’ estimate of $487.9 million, largely due to pricing pressure and dosing schedule.
Nusinersen marketed as Spinraza
The company said overseas sales of Spinraza came under pressure from patients moving to a lower-priced maintenance dose from an induction dose in some mature markets in Europe.
The treatment starts with four induction doses, followed by maintenance doses once every four months. The first three initial doses are administered at 14-day intervals and the last 30 days after the third, meaning all four can fall in the same quarter.
“While the dosing schedule of Spinraza (once every four months) creates potential for irregular quarterly sales, we had estimated continued new patient accrual in international markets,” William Blair analyst Matt Phipps said in a note.
Britain’s healthcare cost agency NICE said last year that it could not recommend Spinraza, which has a list price of $750,000 in the first year of treatment in the United States and $573,000 in the UK, as a cost-effective treatment.
Overseas Spinraza sales came in at $234 million in the fourth quarter, while U.S. sales were $236 million. In the third quarter, overseas sales were $244 million and U.S. brought in $224 million.
The company said on Tuesday it expects global Spinraza revenue to be relatively stable in the current quarter and sees mid- to high-teen growth in sales for the drug this year.
Biogen said it expects 2019 adjusted earnings in the range of $28.00 to $29.00 per share. Analysts on average were expecting $27.94.
Excluding items, the company earned $6.99 per share, while total revenue here rose 6.6 percent to $3.53 billion.
Analysts had expected earnings of $6.73 per share and revenue of $3.40 billion.
JANUARY 29, 2019