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Roche Q1 Diagnostics Revenues Rise 5 Percent, Liat Sales Surge

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Roche said today that its diagnostics revenues grew 5 percent year over year for the first quarter of 2018, driven by growth across the entire Dx division.

For the three months ended March 31, the Swiss pharmaceutical and diagnostics company reported overall revenues of CHF 13.58 billion ($13.85 billion), up 5 percent from CHF 12.94 billion in Q1 2017.

In diagnostics, Roche reported revenues of CHF 2.91 billion, up from CHF 2.77 billion in 2017.

On a conference call to discuss the Q1 financial results and business activities, Roche Diagnostics CEO Roland Diggelmann said that all diagnostic business segments contributed to growth in the quarter.

Within the diagnostics business, the centralized and point-of-care solutions segment contributed most to the division's sales growth and reported revenues of CHF 1.72 billion, up 5 percent from CHF 1.64 billion in the prior-year quarter. Integrated serum work area solutions — consisting of immunodiagnostics, up 5 percent year over year, and clinical chemistry, up 3 percent — were the main growth drivers. In this segment, the company's new Cobas t 511 and t 711 automated coagulation analyzers are being well received by customers, Roche said.

Diggelmann said through the end of Q1, the company had placed more than 5,000 of its Cobas 8000 high-throughput modular analyzers introduced in 2009 for large laboratories. Demand for greater lab efficiencies and support of an increasing number of lab consolidations are motivating placements, he said. The Cobas e801, a module for immunodiagnostics that is among these analyzers, now has more than 1,100 placements. Roche expects to launch the system in China later this year and the company expects to "see further pickup," he added.

Molecular diagnostics revenues were CHF 468 million, up 6 percent from CHF 441 million in Q1 2017. In virology — a part of molecular diagnostics that includes Roche’s portfolio for the diagnosis and monitoring of flu, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV — sales rose 5 percent on the back of strong growth in HIV monitoring. Sales in the blood screening and HPV screening businesses grew 5 percent each, and HIV product sales grew 20 percent, Roche noted.

The firm noted that in January, it launched the Cobas Plasma Separation Card, a "stable and easy-to-use" sample collection device for HIV plasma viral load testing. Traditionally, plasma viral load analyses required blood samples to be cooled during transport to the lab, but the new card allows for "simple and reliable" quantitative testing of patients with HIV living in remote areas — even areas of extreme heat and humidity — while meeting World Health Organization requirements for determining HIV viral load prior to initiating treatment, Roche said.

Diggelmann said that molecular diagnostic sales were particularly strong in North America, driven by strong demand for Cobas Liat PCR point-of-care tests in a strong flu season. "We have in excess of 1,500 systems placed in the US, largely respiratory panels, and we continue to expand on that menu," he added. The firm noted in its presentation that the Liat is sold to hospitals, emergency rooms, physician offices, health clinics, and retail pharmacies. Globally, year-over-year sales grew 262 percent.

Tissue diagnostics revenues were CHF 249 million, up 6 percent from CHF 236 million, driven by growth in advanced staining, up 8 percent, and primary staining, up 20 percent. In this segment, the firm launched the Ventana DP 200 high-speed slide scanner in countries accepting the CE mark, and for research use only in the US. It reduces slide handling errors and produces excellent image quality and reliability, the firm said.

Diabetes care posted CHF 478 million, up 7 percent from CHF 447 million, supported by sales growth in the blood glucose monitoring business. Roche noted that a strong base effect from lower sales in the first quarter of 2017 contributed to a strong growth rate in the recently completed quarter, a result that is unlikely to be sustained over the full year. Roche noted that market conditions in this segment continue to be challenging, but all regions showed sales growth in the first quarter. In Q1, the firm launched the Accu-Chek Guide and Accu-Chek Instant systems, its new blood glucose monitoring platform, in additional markets.

Roche's Europe, Middle East, and Africa diagnostics revenues were CHF 1.22 billion, up 8 percent from CHF 1.13 in the prior-year quarter. The North America region posted revenues of CHF 753 million, an increase of 2 percent from CHF 740 million in Q1 2017. Asia-Pacific revenues were CHF 656 million, an increase of 10 percent from CHF 594 million. Latin America revenues were CHF 188 million, down 7 percent from CHF 203 million, and Japan revenues were CHF 93 million, down 9 percent from CHF 102 million, primarily because of a tough year-over year comparison in hepatitis testing.  

Roche revised its sales guidance for 2018 and said it expects that its sales will grow at low single-digits at constant exchange rates. The firms said in February that it expects overall sales to grow in the flat-to-low single digits.

Guidance for core earnings per share were unchanged and are targeted to grow at high single-digits at constant exchange rates. Excluding the impact of US legislation, core earnings per share are targeted to grow broadly in line with sales, the firm said.

Roche's Pharmaceuticals division reported CHF 10.67 billion in first quarter sales, up 5 percent from CHF 10.18 billion last year.