April 11, 2021

Gilead Sciences sales fall 10% as drug demand falls due to coronavirus pandemic

A lab technician visually inspects a filled vial of investigational coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment drug remdesivir at a Gilead Sciences facility in La Verne, California.

Gilead Sciences | via REUTERS

Gilead Sciences‘ sales fell 10% in the second quarter from a year earlier as the coronavirus pandemic weakened demand for some of its drugs, including some of its core hepatitis treatments.

The company, which released its earnings Thursday, also took a hit from generic competitors as well as its acquisition of cancer drugmaker Forty Seven. Gilead’s shares fell 2% in after-hours trading.

Gilead’s total product sales slid 10% to $5.1 billion in the second quarter, down from $5.6 billion a year ago and less than the $5.31 billion analysts expected. The company reported adjusted earnings of $1.11 per share, lower than the $1.45 per share projected by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

“The impact of COVID-19 on Gilead’s business continues to be subject to a high degree of uncertainty given unpredictable dynamics related to the incidence, spread and efforts to treat COVID-19 around the world,” the company wrote in its earnings release. 

The company said sales in its HIV drug business fell 1% to $4 billion during the second quarter. Sales for its HCV unit fell 47% to $448 million as fewer people in the U.S. and Europe stayed home and had fewer health screenings due to the pandemic.

There are no FDA-approved drugs for the coronavirus, which has infected more than 16 million people worldwide and killed at least 667,808, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

In May, the FDA granted Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir an emergency use authorization, allowing hospitals and doctors to use the drug on patients hospitalized with the disease even though the drug has not been formally approved by the agency. The intravenous drug has helped shorten the recovery time of some hospitalized Covid-19 patients.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced June 29 a deal that gives the U.S. more than 500,000 treatment courses of the antiviral drug for U.S. hospitals through September. That represents 100% of Gilead’s projected production for July and 90% of its production for August and September, according to the agency.$

Gilead is selling remdesivir for $520 per vial in the U.S. to patients with private insurance and $390 per vial to federal insurance programs such as Medicare as well as foreign countries. The majority of patients treated with remdesivir receive a five-day treatment course using six vials of remdesivir, the company has said.

That would bring the cost to $2,340 for foreign and U.S. Medicare patients and $3,120 for U.S. patients with private health coverage.

During a conference call discussing the earnings, Gilead executives said they expect to sell 1 million to 1.5 million treatment courses of the drug this year. 

They also said they are continuing to develop an inhaled version of the antiviral drug. 

In June, the company announced it was beginning human trials for the inhaled version. The drug can’t be administered in pill form because its chemical makeup would impact the liver, the company noted.

They will administer the drug through a nebulizer, a delivery device that can turn liquid medicines into a mist.

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