(Reuters) - Amgen Inc on Tuesday reported first-quarter revenue that was unchanged from a year ago as key drugs, including new migraine treatment Aimovig and cholesterol fighter Repatha, face pricing pressure.
But the world’s largest biotechnology company still raised the lower end of its full-year earnings and sales forecasts as adjusted profit topped expectations.
Excluding items, Amgen earned $3.56 per share, topping analysts’ average expectations by 9 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Quarterly revenue of $5.56 billion showed no growth but was in line with analyst estimates.
Share buybacks helped boost the EPS result, said Jefferies analyst Michael Yee.
“Many of their key growth products and legacy products were a little bit light,” Yee said. “They definitely have a lot of challenges, but first quarter is always seasonally the weakest for Amgen.”
Aimovig sales of $59 million for the quarter were short of the $83.3 million projected by analysts and down from $95 million in the fourth quarter.
Repatha sales of $141 million also missed Wall Street estimates of $158.7 million.
Higher unit demand for Repatha was “offset substantially” by lower net prices, Amgen said. The company recently launched a lower-priced Repatha option aimed at reducing out-of-pocket costs for Medicare patients.
Aimovig competes with similar new migraine drugs from Eli Lilly and Co and Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd for placement on pharmacy benefit plans, which typically demand discounts or rebates from the list price in exchange for coverage.
Amgen said Aimovig is the “segment leader,” accounting for 60 percent of prescriptions in its class at the end of the quarter. The company, which offers a free sample program for Aimovig, said the percentage of paid prescriptions increased to around 60 percent from around 50 percent in the fourth quarter.
Amgen commercial operations head Murdo Gordon, speaking on a conference call, said net prices for Aimovig should stabilize in 2019 since contracts with most commercial plans have been signed. But “people are moving from one free trial offer to another,” making it difficult to determine the number of patients taking Aimovig on a sustained basis, he said.
First-quarter sales of Amgen’s kidney drug Sensipar fell 57 percent to $213 million, below the $353.4 million forecast by analysts. Amgen is litigating to keep U.S. generic competition for Sensipar at bay.
For the full year, Amgen said it now expects adjusted earnings per share of $13.25 to $14.30 on revenue of $22 billion to $22.9 billion, compared with previous forecasts of $13.10 to $14.30 per share and revenue of $21.8 billion to $22.9 billion.
Shares of Amgen, which closed down 1 percent at $179.32 on Nasdaq, was down another 0.72 percent at $178.02 after hours.
Reporting By Deena BeasleyEditing by Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman