Even in the highly mercurial pharmaceutical industry, Gilead Sciences' growth between 2012 and 2015 was astonishing, with revenues more than doubling in 2014, and then rising by almost another third in 2015 to $32.6bn. In the same period, profits soared sixfold to over $18bn, an exceptional proft margin of almost 50%. The cause was the company's spectacularly successful (and expensive) hepatitis C drug Sovaldi, launched at the end of of 2013, followed by combination treatment Harvoni in late 2014. Both products had been developed by US company Pharmasset, acquired by Gilead in 2012. Together they contributed first year sales of more than $12bn, rocketing Gilead into the global Top 10 pharmaceutical companies. However, that kind of growth is hard to maintain, and sales tumbled over the next few years, slipping back to $22.1bn by 2018, with net income of $5.5bn. The key challenge facing Gilead is to maintain steady development in the face of numerous rival drugs now entering the market, all priced well below Sovaldi's staggering original cost of $85k for a three-month course. As a result, Solvadi especially, but also Harvoni have seen their sales plunge. The latter still generated sales of $1.2bn in 2018, but Solvadi has shrunk to less than $200m. The group has remained a specialist in anti-viral treatments, primarily for hepatitis and, increasingly, HIV. Its best seller in 2018 was the HIV treatment Genvoya ($4.6bn). Other HIV blockbusters were Truvada ($3.0bn), Odefsey ($1.6bn), Descovy ($1.6bn), Atripla ($1.2bn) and Biktarvy ($1.2bn). Top-selling HCV drug is now Epclusa, with sales of $2.0bn. In 2017, the group jumped into oncology with the purchase of CAR-T cancer drug Yescarta for $11bn, but sales so far have been below expectations: just $264m in 2018. It spent another $11bn on Kite Pharma, the developer of Axi-cel and other CAR-T drugs that use patients' own immune systems to fight cancer. It also operates partnerships with several other developers including Galapagos (to develop a drug for rheumatoid arthritis), and also Goldfinch Bio and Nurix Therapeutics. Daniel O'Day was named as chairman & CEO at the end of 2018, Gilead's third in two years. Gilead is no new arrival on the scene. Always a specialist in biopharmaceutical anti-viral treatments, it was launched in 1987, and among its early successes was the flu treatment Tamiflu (now controlled by Roche; Gilead earns royalties), followed by several anti-HIV products including Viread and Atripla (co-marketed by BMS).
Capsule checked 2nd August 2019
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Adbrands Weekly Update 31st Aug 2017: Pharmaceutical group Gilead Sciences, one of the newer challengers to the traditional order of drug companies, launched its biggest acquisition to-date with an $12bn offer for Kite Pharma, which specialises in a radical and complex new type of cancer therapy that is expected to become commercially viable in the very near future. CAR-T treatments work by extracting immune cells from cancer sufferers, modifying them genetically in the lab to be more efficient and then re-injecting them. The move into oncology will offset steep declines in Gilead's existing portfolio, which mostly consists of high-priced anti-virals like Harvoni, Sovaldi and Truvada which combat hepatitis and HIV.
Adbrands Weekly Update 10th Mar 2016: Direct to consumer ad expenditure for US prescription pharmaceuticals came close to record levels in 2015, according to estimates from Nielsen, reported by industry blog DTC Perspectives. Total spend reached $5.17bn last year, capping three years of gains since 2012's low of $3.4bn. The latest figure is close to eclipsing the record $5.4bn spent in 2006. A key factor is the increase in drugs with high selling prices, such as Gilead's Harvoni, a course of which costs as much as $100,000 a year. At that level, it doesn't take an excessive number of users to get a return on investment in marketing if its successfully builds demand. That in turn has prompted a backlash from physicians and insurers, who believe that marketing costs contributes to high pricing of many new launches. Harvoni was itself the year's 5th most advertised drug, behind Valeant's Xifaxan, Sanofi's Toujeo, Merck's Belsomra, and GSK's Breo Ellipta.
Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Jun 2014: Merck & Co, which recently agreed to sell its OTC portfolio to Bayer of Germany, has begun adding to its pharma portfolio with a deal to acquire biotech developer Idenix for $3.85bn. It saw off rival bids from AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson. The smaller company specialises in treatments for hepatitis C. Merck already has several products for this disease, but its position has been weakened by the spectacular success of Sovaldi, a new product from rival Gilead. Approved by the FDA only at the end of last year, Sovaldi has already become the fastest-selling drug launch in history, notching up sales of almost $2.3bn in just its first quarter on-sale, almost double analysts' forecasts.
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