February 9, 2016 / 1:12 PM / 4 years ago

Regeneron sees gradual adoption of cholesterol drug Praluent

(Reuters) - Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc (REGN.O) reported lower-than-expected quarterly sales for its new cholesterol drug and reiterated expectations of a “gradual uptake” for the treatment, which has been tipped to be its next blockbuster.

Technician Matthew Smith loads a robotic DNA sample automation machine at a Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. laboratory at the biotechnology company's headquarters in Tarrytown, New York March 24, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Regeneron’s shares fell as much as 10 percent after the drugmaker also forecast slowing sales growth for its blockbuster eye drug, Eylea, this year.

Sales of cholesterol-lowering Praluent, which was approved in July, were $7 million in the fourth quarter, missing the average estimate of $23 million, according to J.P. Morgan analyst Cory Kasimov.

The drug, which had a month’s lead over rival drug Repatha from Amgen Inc (AMGN.O), is approved to treat people at higher risk of cardiovascular diseases with higher cholesterol levels.

“We continue to expect a gradual uptake,” Regeneron Chief Executive Leonard Schleifer said on a conference call.

However, Leerink Partners analysts said Praluent’s slow start will weigh on long-term revenue expectations.

Praluent sales are being recorded by the company’s development partner, French drugmaker Sanofi SA SNY.N. Regeneron shares in any profits or losses from its commercialization.

EYLEA SALES SLOW

Regeneron said it expected full-year sales of Eylea to increase by about 20 percent in the United States, compared with a 54 percent rise in 2015. The drug raked in sales of $2.68 billion in 2015.

The eye drug’s success has been responsible for the company’s explosive growth since November 2011, when it was approved to treat wet age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

The reality of slowing Eylea growth ... is likely to pressure the stock, Morgan Stanley analyst Matthew Harrison said.

The company, which reported a lower-than-expected profit for the first time in four quarters, said net income rose 72 percent to $155 million, or $1.34 per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned $2.83 per share, missing analysts’ average estimate of $3.36 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 37 percent to $1.10 billion, short of the average estimate of $1.17 billion.

Eylea sales in the United States rose 44 percent to $746 million in the quarter, missing the average forecast of $752 million compiled by Evercore ISI.

Regeneron’s shares were down 5.3 percent at $369.91 in late morning trade on the Nasdaq on Tuesday. The stock had fallen about 28 percent since the start of the year up to Monday’s close.

Reporting by Rosmi Shaji in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian, Ted Kerr and Anil D'Silva

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