Novartis hikes '13 forecast, thanks to generic Diovan delay

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Ranbaxy's export woes may be hurting its own sales, but the Indian generics firm is actually making life easier for Novartis. Ranbaxy currently holds exclusive rights to sell the generic version of Diovan in the US, but its copy has yet to reach US shores, reportedly due to an import ban levied by FDA on its local plants.

The impact from the delay in generic Diovan could be seen in Novartis' second-quarter earnings report today. The full-year forecast for losses due to generic competition fell to $2.7 billion, 23% lower than the previous estimate.

Ranbaxy told MM&M that it “cannot indicate any timeframe on [when their] generic version of Diovan,” will reach the US. Ranbaxy currently has three India-based plants under “import alert,” according to The Economic Times, meaning the company cannot export to the US from the sites. There have also been reports that the generics maker has culled 400 staff from its senior and middle-management levels.

That fuzzy time frame should sit well with Novartis, which says sales of branded BP drug Diovan amount to $100 million per month. Overall sales for Novartis increased 1% to $14.5 billion vs. a year ago, the Swiss company said. Growth products—which include Gilenya, Afinitor, Tasigna, Galvus and Jakafi—grew 13% to $4.5 billion and accounted for 31% of net sales.

While this news is seen as a nice break for Novartis, one analyst largely views it as kicking the proverbial can down the road—with the financial impact of generics now spilling over into 2014. Commenting on the raised 2013 guidance, Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson wrote in an investor note, "the changed outlook is primarily due to delay in entry of generic Diovan monotherapy in the US – what benefits NVS now only hurts later! Novartis now expects full year sales to grow at a low single-digit rate in constant currency vs prior flat sales growth.“

Another analyst, Jeffrey Holford, of Jeffries International, as reported by Bloomberg, noted that “management looks like it is taking advantage of the Diovan windfall to invest in marketing and R&D.” In 2012, Novartis' R&D spend was down 1.1% to $9.1 billion, but it still spent a greater share of revenue on drug development than all other drug manufacturers with R&D spend accounting for 16.1% of its sales for 2012.

The Basel-based drug maker also reported a 2% drop in nets sales for its pharmaceutical business, 3% growth in nets sales for its Alcon unit, 18% growth in net sales for its vaccine business, a 3% hike in net sales for its generic unit Sandoz, and an 11% uptick for its consumer health division. 

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