(Reuters) - Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc on Wednesday reported third-quarter profit that sailed past Wall Street estimates on the strength of increased demand for flagship eye treatment Eylea and its new eczema drug Dupixent, boosting its shares almost 7 percent.
Eylea’s U.S. sales increased 12 percent to $953 million in the quarter, topping analysts’ expectations of about $935 million. Sales outside the United States, which are booked by Bayer AG, rose 20 percent.
The drug gets about 70 percent of its sales for wet age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, with about 25 percent from diabetic macular edema (DME).
Regeneron said it sees opportunity for significant growth in DME for which the majority of patients are either untreated or receiving inferior laser therapy. The company also expects to seek approval in the second half of 2018 for Eylea for another vision-threatening condition related to diabetes, diabetic retinopathy, if Phase III data proves positive.
Excluding items, Regeneron earned $3.99 per share for the quarter, exceeding analysts’ average forecast by 14 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
“The numbers on the quarter were very reassuring for investors,” said Leerink Partners analyst Geoffrey Porges. “After what had been a rocky earnings season for the biopharma sector, this was something of a relief.”
Several companies, including Celgene Corp, Gilead Sciences Inc, Biogen Inc and Merck & Co saw steep share price declines after reporting third-quarter results or growth issues for key drugs that disappointed investors.
Sales of $89 million for Dupixent, previously reported by partner Sanofi, beat analysts’ average estimate by about $16 million.
About 500 new prescriptions a week are being written for the drug for moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema, with more than 90 percent of patients refilling their prescriptions, the company said.
“The Dupixent number suggested continued growth in its initial indication and there’s at least one new major indication just around the corner,” Porges said.
Regeneron is about to launch a television ad campaign for Dupixent in hopes of capturing more moderate eczema patients, and is awaiting an approval decision for the treatment of severe asthma.
“We recognize this will be a very competitive area,” admitted Chief Executive Len Schleifer.
However, Regeneron believes Dupixent will be differentiated from rivals because it improves lung function as well as reducing asthma flare-ups.
The drug is also being tested for nasal polyps and a chronic, allergic inflammatory disease of the esophagus.
Regeneron’s potent but expensive cholesterol fighter Praluent continued to struggle with just $49 million in sales. It has lost market share to Amgen’s rival Repatha, while both are still battling barriers to patient access from insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.
Praluent’s future will also hinge on the outcome of an upcoming patent infringement trial brought by Amgen.
Total revenue, which includes collaboration revenue from partners Sanofi and Bayer, rose 23 percent to $1.50 billion, beating estimates of $1.46 billion.
Regeneron shares were up $11.15, or 2.8 percent, at $415.54 in late morning trade after earlier climbing as high as $432.50.
Reporting by Bill Berkrot in New York and Akankshita Mukhopadhyay in Bengaluru; editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and G Crosse