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New drugs give Bayer record sales

Published on 26/02/15 at 01:32pm
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Bayer has reported strong financial results for 2014 driven primary by sales of new medicines, although controversy surrounding its anti-clotting drug Xarelto continues.

The German firm’s healthcare business saw sales of €5.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014, up 13.3% from the same period last year. For the full-year 2014 it posted sales of €19.9 billion, an increase of 5.6% from 2013. Prescription pharma products had a big part to play in this, bringing in €12 billion, up 11.2% year-on-year.

Bayer mainly attributes this to the success of several recently-launched products – the anticoagulant Xarelto (rivaroxaban), eye medicine Eylea (aflibercept), cancer drugs Stivarga (regorafenib) and Xofigo (Radium-223 chloride), and Adempas (riociguat) for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension. Together these products accounted for €2.9 billion of sales.

“These products have played a crucial role in making us one of the fastest-growing large companies in the pharmaceutical industry,” says Marijn Dekkers, Bayer’s chief executive.

However, MS drug Betaferon (Interferon beta 1b) saw a drop of 19.6% as its expiring patents brought more generic competition. Sales of the blood-clotting medicine Kogenate (antihemophilic factor) fell by 5.6%, which Bayer says was partly caused by the temporary use of production capacities to develop new haemophilia medicines.

Xarelto lawsuits

This has largely been offset by the success of Xarelto, which has been a particularly big driver for the firm – it has seen a year-on-year growth of 80% to become Bayer’s best-selling pharma product. It brought in sales of €1.7 billion in 2014 and holds a 32% share of the overall anticoagulant market.

However the drug – which is co-produced with Janssen – has proved controversial in the US and faced lawsuits over internal bleeding risks. This is a known side effect of the drug, which NICE acknowledged in its recent final draft guidance for its use in people with acute coronary syndrome.

Speaking at Bayer’s financial results conference with Pharmafile present, chief financial officer Johannes Dietsch noted that there have been around 200 suits so far, but said that law firms have been using ‘everything at their disposal’ to attract more.

Dekkers insisted that Bayer believes there has been no wrongdoing on their part, saying that there are always side effects of drugs and that the real question was not whether Xarelto had side effects, but whether they were communicated clearly to patients and doctors.

“We are convinced it was explained clearly,” he added.

Mergers and acquisitions

2014 also saw Bayer taking big strides towards its goal of becoming a pure life sciences company, which will eventually lead to the divestment of its material sciences business.

During the last year the company acquired Merck’s over the counter (OTC) portfolio, as well as Chinese-based Dihon Pharmaceutical Group. It also completed the purchase of Norwegian firm Algeta ASA, which co-developed and commercialised Xofigo with Bayer.

But at the conference Dekkers did not confirm or deny the long-rumoured divestment of the company’s diabetes business. “We don’t really want to speculate about M&As,” he said, adding that while the diabetes portfolio had been affected by price reductions in the US, from a cash-flow perspective it has been a positive business for Bayer.

Looking ahead, the company says it expects single-digit growth in its pharma business over 2015, and hopes it will bring in sales of about €13 billion. The healthcare business as a whole is predicted to achieve sales of approximately €23 billion.

George Underwood

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