After taking a 2% hit from negative exchange rates Roche posted a 3% rise in total first-quarter sales to 11.83 billion Swiss francs ($12.4 billion), overshooting an average forecast of 11.49 billion compiled by Reuters.

Of this, 9.32 billion francs was brought in by its giant pharmaceuticals division, as sales of top-selling drug MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab) swelled 5% (at constant exchange rates) to 1.74 billion francs and number two Herceptin (trastuzumab) jumped 12% to 1.65 billion francs.

Avastin (bevacizumab) climbed 6% to 1.62 billion francs, while, further down the line, new breast cancer drug Perjeta (pertuzumab) did well, with turnover shooting up 82% to 322 million francs after growing strongly in all markets, as did Kadcyla (trastuzumab/emtansine), generating 179 million francs in the period.

On the downside, sales of Lucentis (ranibizumab), which Roche sells in the US, slipped 9% to 394 million francs because of “competitive pressure in the wet age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic macular oedema segments”, the firm noted. 

Elsewhere, Roche’s diagnostics division generated growth of 6% to 2.51 billion francs after a solid performance across all areas, and given a helping hand by solid uptake of two new tests launched during the quarter - the cobas DPX test for parvovirus B19 and hepatitis A virus, and the cobas HBV quantitative nucleic acid test. 

In 2015, Roche said it continues to expect sales to grow low- to mid-single digit, at constant exchange rates, while core earnings per share are targeted to grow ahead of sales.