Shire has posted very healthy revenues for the fourth quarter, up 19% to $1.58 billion and highlighted its strongest-ever pipeline. Operating income jumped 28% to $655 million, driven by the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder drug Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate), sales of which climbed 16% to $383 million. Its off-patent predecessor Adderall XR (mixed amphetamine salts) was up 26% to $103 million, although another ADHD drug, Intuniv (guanfacine), sank 44% to $48 million (+20%) ahead of patent expiries in December.

The ulcerative colitis drug Lialda/Mezavant jumped 24% to $185 million, while Shire also benefited from the hereditary angioedema drug Cinryze (C1 inhibitor [human]), acquired through its purchase of ViroPharma.

The latter contributed $142 million, while Shire's other HAE drug Firazyr (icatibant) leapt 26% to $102 million. Replagal (agalsidase alfa) for Fabry disease decreased 9% to $135.9 million, while the Hunter Syndrome therapy Elaprase (idursulfase) fell 6% to $143.3 million. The declines of the latter two therapies was due to the timing of large orders from markets which order less frequently.

'Strongest pipeline in history'

Chief executive Flemming Ornskov said 2014 was a transformational year for Shire, coming through a failed sale to AbbVie, achieving record revenues and earnings while “developing the strongest pipeline in our history”. It now has “21 distinct programmes” in clinical development.

He added that the company “also successfully executed on value-enhancing M&A and generated strong cash flows which will enable us to continue investing in drivers of growth”. Shire’s $5.2 billion acquisition of NPS Pharma, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2015, brings with it Gattex/Revestive (teduglutide) for short bowel syndrome and Natpara/Natpar (recombinant human parathyroid hormone) for hypoparathyroidism.

Cautious forecast

As is Shire’s way, its forecast for this year is more cautious. Mr Ornskov said this year’s figures may be less exceptional due to “significant foreign currency headwinds, the loss of exclusivity for Intuniv and the inclusion of Cinryze in our 2014 results”. The Ireland-domiciled drugmaker expects product sales to increase by a low-to-mid single digit percentage in 2015, with earnings per share forecast to grow in the mid-single digits.

Mick Cooper, an analyst at Edison Investment Research, said Shire’s results “underline the progress being made and strengths of the business and also demonstrate why it remains such an attractive asset for potential suitors”. He added that the figures “are all the more remarkable given the distractions caused by the aborted acquisition by Abbvie”.