UPDATE 3-Regeneron sales top forecast as Eylea picks up steam

Tue Aug 5, 2014 10:43am EDT

(Adds details on experimental cholesterol drug, updates shares)

By Ransdell Pierson

Aug 5 (Reuters) - Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc on Tuesday reported higher-than-expected quarterly results on surging demand for its Eylea treatment for macular degeneration, and stuck to its full-year sales forecast for the drug.

Revenue, including research collaboration payments from French drugmaker Sanofi, jumped 45 percent to $666 million in the second quarter, topping the average forecast of $648 million among analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Eylea's U.S. sales rose 26 percent to $415 million, above Wall Street expectations of $410 million.

But Regeneron, which often raises its U.S. Eylea sales forecasts, stuck to its view of $1.7 billion to $1.8 billion for the full year.

"It was a solid quarter for Eylea, but you can't raise sales guidance every quarter," said Morningstar analyst Stefan Quenneville. Some investors may have been disappointed that Regeneron had not nudged its 2014 view higher, Quenneville said.

Although shares fell in premarket trading, they recovered and were up almost 3 percent by mid-morning.

Eylea gained momentum from disappointing 14 percent U.S. sales growth in the prior quarter that was due largely to a drop in distributor inventory, said Robert Baird analyst Christopher Raymond.

"We wondered if weakness in ophthalmology office visits could have spilled over into (Regeneron's) second quarter results, but no signs of that," Raymond said.

Bayer AG, which sells Eylea outside the United States, reported a more than doubling of sales in those markets to $247 million. Regeneron recognized $67 million from its share of those sales.

Regeneron earned $93 million, or 82 cents per share, including expenses for taxes and compensation. It earned $87 million, or 79 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items, Regeneron earned $2.47 per share. Analysts on average expected $2.29.

Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness among the elderly. Eylea also treats macular edema, a buildup of fluid in the back of the eye. It was approved last week for a related sight-robbing condition called diabetic macular edema.

Regeneron is developing other promising medicines with Sanofi, including alirocumab, which lowers cholesterol by blocking the protein PCSK9.

Although Regeneron was the first company to begin development of a PCSK9 inhibitor, Amgen Inc has jumped ahead with trials of its drug, AMG 145.

Regeneron and Sanofi last week said alirocumab slashed cholesterol in nine late-stage studies. An interim safety analysis of one trial suggested it lowers heart attack risk.

One day later, the drugmakers said they had paid $67.5 million for a voucher from BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc that could assure alirocumab an expedited six-month U.S. regulatory review, rather than the standard 10 months.

A speedier review could help alirocumab catch up with AMG 145, analysts said. The partners bought the transferable voucher from BioMarin, which acquired it under a U.S. program that encourages development of drugs for rare pediatric diseases. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Marguerita Choy)