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(Adds analyst comment, shares, details on immuno-oncology drugs)
By Ransdell Pierson
July 24 (Reuters) - Bristol-Myers Squibb Co reported better-than-expected quarterly results, helped by cost controls and strong sales of its Eliquis blood clot preventer and Yervoy treatment for melanoma.
Sales of Eliquis, which Bristol-Myers co-markets with Pfizer Inc, rose to $171 million. The pill, used to prevent strokes in patients with an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, has had disappointing sales since it was approved in late 2012, but has picked up steam in recent months.
Yervoy sales jumped 38 percent to $321 million.
Company revenue slipped 4 percent to $3.90 billion, but topped Wall Street expectations of $3.85 billion. Revenue would have risen 7 percent if Bristol-Meyers had not earlier this year sold its global diabetes business to longtime partner AstraZeneca.
Bristol-Myers is counting on an array of experimental immuno-oncology drugs to succeed in clinical trials and propel sales growth in coming years. The company, along with Merck & Co and Roche Holding AG, is racing to develop such treatments, which train the immune system to recognize cancer cells and to attack them.
Yervoy, one of the first immuno-oncology drugs, was approved in 2011 to treat patients with late-stage melanoma. But most excitement is centered around a drug called Opdivo (nivolumab), which Bristol-Myers is testing against melanoma, lung cancer and blood cancers. It is a so-called PD-1 inhibitor, considered the most promising new class of cancer treatments.
In a conference call with investors on Thursday, Bristol-Myers executives said they expect data from those trials to begin rolling out this year and next year.
"Overall, we continue to see Bristol-Myers' immuno-oncology portfolio as an $8 billion to $10 billion (annual sales) opportunity for the company" that is not fully reflected in Bristol-Myers' share price, JP Morgan analyst Chris Schott said Thursday in a research note.
The U.S. drugmaker said it earned $333 million, or 20 cents per share, in the second quarter. That compared with $536 million, or 32 cents per share, in the year-earlier period.
Excluding special items, including $458 million in merger-related charges, Bristol-Myers earned 48 cents per share. Analysts on average expected 44 cents per share.
Bristol-Myers stuck to its prior full-year earnings view of $1.70 to $1.80 per share.
Company shares were up 0.7 percent to $49.67 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Reporting by Ransdell Pierson, Editing by Franklin Paul, Chizu Nomiyama and Diane Craft