March 18, 2010 / 8:03 AM / 9 years ago

REFILE-UPDATE 3-Roche eyes blockbuster sales outside oncology

(Corrects to change Tuesday to Thursday in second paragraph)

* Sees blockbuster diabetes, cardiovascular drug sales

* Aims to launch six new products by end of 2014

* May file 35 line extensions of current products by 2014

* Roche stock closes up 0.6 percent

(Adds detail, closing stock price)

By Katie Reid and Ransdell Pierson

ZURICH/NEW YORK, March 18 (Reuters) - Roche Holding AG ROG.VX, best known for its widely-used cancer drugs, said at least seven of its experimental drugs have blockbuster sales potential, including treatments for diabetes, heart disease and multiple sclerosis.

A statement released by the group on Thursday reflects Roche’s drive to broaden its business beyond oncology and comes after a series of setbacks with its top-selling cancer drug Avastin and an experimental rheumatoid arthritis drug called ocrelizumab.

Its biggest new drug hope is a late-stage medicine called dalcetrapib for atherosclerosis in high-risk cardiovascular patients. Roche said the drug could have peak sales of at least 5 billion Swiss francs ($4.73 billion), assuming it succeeds in final tests.

Roche cautioned, however, that probability of success for the medicine was below 50 percent.

Atherosclerosis is a condition where the arteries can harden and narrow, causing restricted blood flow and stopping vital organs from functioning properly.

Roche also hit an upbeat note on taspoglutide, its treatment for Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, adding this medicine could see peak sales of at least 2 billion Swiss francs if launched.

Roche stock closed 0.6 percent higher at 174.70 Swiss francs, outperforming a slightly firmer ARCA Pharmaceutical Index of large U.S. and European drugmakers .DRG.

Analysts were also encouraged by news that its schizophrenia drug RG1678 and multiple sclerosis treatment ocrelizumab had seen positive results in early trials.

“The early stage pipeline looks compelling and companion diagnostics will play an increasing role with BRAF inhibitor in melanoma representing a concrete example of this strategy,” Helvea analyst Karl-Heinz Koch said.

CANCER MEDICINES STILL KEY

Roche said cancer drugs Avastin, MabThera and Herceptin, as well as arthritis medicine Actemra would drive short-term growth, adding it aimed to launch six new products by the end of 2014 and that it may file 35 line extensions of existing products, including blockbuster Avastin, by 2014.

“Roche will focus on its diversification strategy to increase revenues in non-oncology such as metabolic disorders and CNS,” Vontobel analyst Silvia Schanz said.

“However the oncology pipeline remains an important contributor with the BRAF drug in melanoma and pertuzumab in breast cancer to be a topic,” she said.

Roche still expects Avastin, which slipped at recent hurdles in gastric and prostate cancer, could reach peak sales of between 8 billion and 9 billion Swiss francs ($7.56 billion and $8.51 billion).

Many analysts believe it could be the world’s biggest-selling drug in a few years time.

Avastin, which works by starving tumours of blood, is a flagship for Roche, given its potential to treat new types of cancer, and is already approved to treat colorectal, breast, kidney and lung cancer.

“Avastin remains a major source of Roche’s growth despite having been on the market since 2004 and despite recent failures in prostate cancer and gastric cancer,” analysts at Bernstein said in a note.

“In our forecasts, it accounts for around a quarter of Roche’s growth between now and 2015. The forecast growth comes mainly from ovarian and breast cancer indications, with a little help from geographic catch up,” they said.

In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Chief Executive Severin Schwan said Roche’s experimental drugs to treat melanoma and raise “good” HDL cholesterol could transform treatment of cancer and heart disease.[ID:nN17180710]

The group also said its breast cancer drugs pertuzumab and T-DMI could bring in sales of at least 2 billion francs if they come to market. ($1=1.058 Swiss Franc) (Editing by Hans Peters and Rupert Winchester)

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