Novartis Profit Falls as Blockbuster Cancer Drug Sales Drop

  • Gleevec sales fell 22 percent after loss of patent protection
  • Company reiterates full-year forecast for sales and earnings

Novartis AG said first-quarter earnings fell 12 percent after the company’s best-selling cancer medicine Gleevec faced generic competition in the U.S.

Profit declined to $1.17 a share, excluding some items, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said Thursday in a statement. Analysts estimated $1.15, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Revenue fell 3 percent to $11.6 billion, compared with analysts’ average projection of $11.8 billion.

Novartis rose 1.2 percent to 74.95 Swiss francs at 9:03 a.m. in Swiss trading.

Sales of Gleevec dropped 22 percent after the drug lost patent protection in the U.S. in February, opening the door to generic versions of the $4.7 billion-a-year product. 

The Alcon eye-care division continued to struggle as the company implements a plan to put the unit’s growth back on track. Alcon revenue dropped 7 percent to $1.4 billion and profit plunged 36 percent to $243 million in the first quarter.

To offset the sales declines, Novartis has been trying to boost revenue from new medicines like Entresto for heart failure and the Cosentyx skin treatment.

Analysts have cut their 2020 sales estimates for Entresto by 35 percent in the last three months amid weak demand for the drug, which generated $17 million in the quarter. Analysts had estimated $20.2 million in sales. Novartis forecast about $200 million in Entresto sales for this year.

Cosentyx, which faces competition soon from a new psoriasis medicine sold by Eli Lilly & Co., had sales of $176 million, beating analyst estimates of $137.1 million.

The drugmaker is sticking to its forecast that 2016 sales and core operating income will be largely unchanged from last year on a constant exchange rate basis.

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