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Novartis CEO reasserts 2018 growth expectations, discusses Alcon and Sandoz future

Published on 18/07/17 at 11:34am

Novartis has reiterated its expectation of sales growth beginning in 2018, as well as a positive outlook for its Alcon eye care business, according to Chief Executive Joe Jimenez (pictured).

Jimenez touched on a range of topics from Merger and acquisitions to its FDA-recommended CAR T therapy CTL019. He was keen to point out the recent successes of Alcon, sales from which grew by 1% to $1.5 billion, which allows for greater flexibility with how the company moves forward with the business.  

“I was very pleased to see the Alcon business turn in the second quarter. The vision care side of the business has had five consecutive quarters of growth,” he explained. "It makes a capital markets exit a possibility, because you've got a growing business with presumably over time margins that are going to grow.

“We’re reviewing that market for all options. I think the turn on the business now creates full optionality. We’re pleased with the current momentum, but we need to see it continue.”

Novartis has been entertaining the possibility of disposing of the business, with Jimenez noting that a possible IPO could value the company between $25 and $35 billion.

Jimenez also addressed the FDA’s decision to recommend the approval of its CAR-T therapy CTL019 and what it means for the company: “We were very pleased to hear that the FDA advisory committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of this new technology. It’s a historic breakthrough in immuno-oncology in which Novartis can lead.

“We believe that the paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukaemia indication will be approved in October of this year,” he continued. “We will immediately commercialise that. We’re going to file the second indication before the end of this year, which means we will be selling in 2018 two indications – with the second significantly bigger than the first.”

With the performance of the Swiss company’s generics business Sandoz dragging down sales by 2% to $12.242 billion, Jimenez addressed concerns over the company’s future plans for the business in the face of pricing pressures and the patent expiry of its declining blood cancer drug Gleevec:

“While it is true there’s a lot of pricing pressure in the US around the generics industry, those are mostly the commodity generics side of the business,” he noted. “Our plan for Sandoz is all in biosimilars in terms of how we’re going to grow that business, sales and margin.”

Jimenez singled out two of Sandoz’s products – Rixathon and Erelzi, biosimilar versions of rituximab and etanercept – saying that they, “will start to have an impact in second half of 2017, and we believe the outlook for Sandoz is positive in the long term.”  

Finally Jimenez reaffirmed the company’s outlook into the next fiscal year, fully expecting a period of growth: “Novartis is about to enter its next growth phase, and CAR-T 19 is part of it. Once we get out from under the patent expiration of our biggest drug Gleevek at the end of this year, we should move into a growth phase which begins in 2018, 2019 and 2020.”

Matt Fellows

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