Sales rise as Amgen outlines cardiovascular strategy

Amgen
Amgen

Higher prices and increased demand nudged Amgen's first-quarter product sales 12% higher to $4.87 billion, compared to $4.35 billion for the same period last year.

Total revenue grew 11% to $5.03 billion in the first quarter of 2015, compared to $4.52 billion for the same period last year. Net income rose 34% during the quarter to $1.62 billion, compared to $1.07 billion in the first three months a year earlier.

Sales of rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel (etanercept) rose 13% to $1.11 billion in the quarter, compared to $988 million last year. Amgen said it anticipates continued growth for the drug throughout the year despite increased competition in dermatology, where Enbrel holds 27% of the market. Enbrel can also be used to treat psoriasis.

Higher demand drove Xgeva (denosumab) sales 22% higher to $340 million, compared to the same period last year when it earned $279 million, and charging higher prices spurred a 16% boost in sales for Epogen (epoetin alfa) to $534 million, compared to the same period last year, when sales were $462 million.

Sales of Neupogen (filgrastim), which is poised to face biosimilar competition from Sandoz's Zarxio, fell 15% during the quarter to $246 million, compared to $289 million for the same period a year earlier, due to existing competition that includes Teva's biologic Granix and Sanofi's Leukine. Amgen told investors biosimilar competition in Europe has primed it to handle Zarxio in the US.

Executives also indicated that they are ready for a strong cardiovascular product push. Sales teams are already promoting heart-failure medication Corlanor (ivabradine), which the FDA approved last week. Amgen started shipping the drug to wholesalers Monday. The company said about one million patients qualify for Corlanor and CEO Robert Bradway told investors that marketing the heart-failure drug will require “some work to educate cardiologists about the appropriate use of this medicine.”

Jefferies analyst Eun Yang said in a research note that her firm anticipates the drug will have $1.5 billion in peak sales by 2028.

Corlanor is part of a three-part product launch strategy that will likely include experimental cholesterol medication Repatha (evolocumab). The FDA is expected to review the PCSK9 inhibitor by Aug. 27.

The company is racing Sanofi and Regeneron to bring the first PCSK9 inhibitor to market; Sanofi and Regeneron were initially behind, but they are using a $67.5 million voucher that the companies purchased from BioMarin to speed up the FDA's review of its candidate by July 24, a month before Amgen's drug is reviewed.

Amgen said Phase-II results of its experimental systolic heart-failure medication omecamtiv mecarbil, which it developed with Cytokinetics, will roll in later this year.

Amgen said it is also on track to launch its Humira biosimilar in 2017.