Merck beats first-quarter expectations on Keytruda, Gardasil strength
April 27 (Reuters) - Drugmaker Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) on Thursday posted better-than-expected results for the first quarter on the strength of its blockbuster cancer immunotherapy Keytruda and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil.
Shares of the company rose 1.8% to $114.98 in premarket trading after the drugmaker raised its full-year forecasts for sales and earnings, citing strong global demand for its drugs.
The company's revenue fell year-over-year due to a sharp, but expected, drop in sales from COVID pill molnupiravir, and rose more than 10% excluding that drug.
Merck's first-quarter sales fell to $14.5 billion from $15.9 billion last year. Analysts, on average, had expected sales of $13.8 billion, according to Refinitiv data.
Excluding items, Merck earned $1.40 per share, compared with estimates of $1.32 per share.
Keytruda sales rose 20% to $5.8 billion in the quarter, topping the estimates of $5.6 billion. Gardasil sales rose 35% to $2 billion, above expectations of $1.7 billion.
Sales for COVID treatment molnupiravir - sold under the brand name Lagevrio - fell to $392 million from $3.2 billion last year. The company has said it expects just $1 billion of molnupiravir sales this year.
It forecast 2023 sales of $57.7 billion to $58.9 billion, up from its previous forecast of $57.2 billion to $58.7 billion. It now expects to earn $6.88 to $7 a share, from $6.80 to $6.95 per share previously.
Earlier this month, Merck agreed to buy Prometheus Biosciences Inc (RXDX.O) for about $10.8 billion, picking up a promising experimental treatment for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease and building up its presence in immunology.
Merck has been looking for deals to protect itself from eventual revenue loss as patents on Keytruda begin to expire toward the end of the decade. The company reported nearly $21 billion in Keytruda sales last year.
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