Roche profits fall due to strong Swiss franc

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche on Thursday reported a five-percent drop in net profits in 2015 as a strong Swiss franc ate into its robust sales of diagnostics and cancer medications.

Roche profits fall due to strong Swiss franc
Photo: Roche

The world's largest maker of cancer drugs raked in a net profit of nine billion Swiss francs ($8.9 billion), falling short of expectations.
Analysts polled by Swiss financial news agency AWP had expected to see a net profit of 10.2 billion francs for the year.
But Roche stressed the disappointing figures were largely due to the impact of the soaring value of the Swiss franc after the Swiss central bank a year ago decided to halt efforts to artificially hold down the currency against the euro.
Not counting the impact of currency fluctuations, the company's net profit swelled four percent, it pointed out in its earnings statement.
Roche, meanwhile, reported stronger-than-expected sales, which ticked in at 48.1 billion francs for the year — up five percent in constant currencies but only one percent after exchange rates had taken their toll.
Analysts polled by AWP had expected the company to book sales of 47.9 billion francs in 2015.
Roche's pharmaceutical division — the company's biggest revenue generator — saw its sales expand five percent, boosted mainly by its oncology division, and particularly strong demand for its star cancer drug Avastin and for its breast cancer treatments.
Roche's diagnostics division meanwhile booked a six-percent hike in sales driven especially by its immunodiagnostic products.
Going forward, the company said it expected sales to swell between one and five percent at constant exchange rates this year, adding that earnings per share should grow faster.
Following the news, Roche saw its share price drop by more than four percent to 256.90 francs a piece in late morning trading as the Swiss stock exchange's main SMI index dipped 1.2 percent.

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Swiss-American antibody drug ‘effective at preventing Covid infection’

US biotech firm Regeneron and its Swiss partner Roche unveiled promising clinical trial results Monday indicating that an antibody treatment used to treat Covid-19 patients also helps prevent infections.

Swiss-American antibody drug 'effective at preventing Covid infection'
Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The results of the Phase 3 trial showed that the combination of the antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab dramatically reduced the risk of symptomatic infection among people living with Covid-19 patients, Roche said in a statement.

The trial entailed injecting 1,505 people not infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus but living in households with people carrying the virus with the Regeneron antibody cocktail or a placebo.

READ MORE: Why are vaccination appointments still vacant in Zurich?

The trial, which was conducted in cooperation with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, showed that those who received the antibody cocktail saw their risk of symptomatic infection reduced by 81 percent, the companies said.

It also indicated that those treated with casirivimab and imdevimab who did experience symptomatic infection on average saw their symptoms clear within one week — far faster than the three-week average for those who received the placebo.

In a separate part of the study, 204 people who had recently tested positive for Covid-19 but showed no symptoms received either a dose of the antibody cocktail or a placebo.

Those who received the cocktail saw their risk of developing symptoms reduced by 31 percent compared to the placebo group, the companies said.

“Today’s data confirm the potential dual value of casirivimab and imdevimab to reduce household Covid-19 infections and to decrease the disease burden in those who do become infected, when given as a subcutaneous option,” Levi Garraway, Roche’s chief medical officer said in a statement.

“Although vaccinations are increasing globally, there remains a critical unmet need worldwide to prevent infections and provide immediate protection from Covid-19 between close contacts,” he said.

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland is speeding up its vaccination programme

Regeneron president and chief scientist George Yancopoulos agreed, pointing out that in the United States alone, 60,000 people are being diagnosed with Covid-19 every day.

The antibody cocktail “may help provide immediate protection to unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus”, he said in a statement, adding that it could also potentially “provide ongoing protection for immunocompromised patients who may not respond well to vaccines”.

Regeneron said it would present the data to the US Food and Drug Administration and request it clear the Covid antibody cocktail for use as a preventative treatment.

The companies said they would share the new data with health regulators worldwide.