By Ransdell Pierson
Oct 23 (Reuters) - Bristol-Myers Squibb Co reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings, fueled by strong sales of cancer and diabetes drugs, but weak demand for its new Eliquis blood clot medicine dampened investor enthusiasm.
The company on Wednesday said it earned $692 million, or 42 cents per share in the third quarter. That compared with a loss of $711 million, or 43 cents per share, in the year-earlier period when the company took a big charge for an experimental hepatitis C drug that showed disappointing results in clinical trials.
Excluding special items, Bristol-Myers earned 46 cents per share. Analysts, on average, expected 44 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Eliquis, which was approved in December to prevent strokes caused by an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, posted sales of $41 million. Analysts said that was a disappointing showing for a drug expected to eventually claim annual sales of $5 billion or more.
"Eliquis is working against Bristol at the moment," Edward Jones analyst Judson Clark said, but added that overall company results were "solid."
Morningstar analyst Damien Conover said many investors are becoming nervous about the slow ramp-up for Eliquis, a twice-daily pill sold in partnership with Pfizer Inc.
It was approved on the heels of two other new blood clot preventers that have become blockbuster products, Pradaxa from Boehringer Ingelheim and Xarelto from Johnson & Johnson and Bayer AG. Xarelto is favored by many patients because it is only taken once a day.
"But we think Eliquis will eventually be the leader because of its superior data" from clinical trials, Conover said, referring to Eliquis' ability to prolong lives of patients - a finding not seen in trials of Pradaxa and Xarelto.
Global Bristol-Myers revenue rose 9 percent to $4.07 billion, topping Wall Street expectations of $3.99 billion.
The company reaffirmed it expects earnings for full-year 2013 of $1.70 to $1.78 per share, excluding special items. It earned $1.99 per share last year.
Diabetes drug Onglyza and a related drug called Kombiglyze had combined sales of $211 million, up 19 percent from the year-ago period. Sales of Orencia, for rheumatoid arthritis, rose 22 percent to $375 million.
Sales of leukemia drug Sprycel jumped 20 percent to $316 million, while sales of Yervoy - a new type of treatment for melanoma that works by spurring the immune system - soared 33 percent to $238 million.
Double-digit sales gains of such newer drugs helped offset plunging sales of blood clot preventer Plavix, and blood pressure medicine Avapro, which are both facing competition from cheaper generics.
The company's shares fell 1.4 percent to $49.01 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange, amid a moderate downturn for the drug sector.