Swiss drug giant Roche has reported strong revenue growth from its pharmaceutical and diagnostics segments for the first quarter of 2010, on the back of which it has confirmed its outlook for 2010.

The group said sales for the period, ended March 31, were up 9% overall in local currencies (+6% in Swiss francs, +15% in US dollars) at 12.2 billion Swiss francs, as both the pharmaceuticals and diagnostics division continued to “outgrow their respective markets”.

Pharma sales growth hit the double-digit mark rising 10% to 9.7 billion Swiss Francs, led by a solid performance by the oncology segment, which houses the firm’s top-selling drug Avastin (bevacizumab), turnover of which leapt 18% to 1.7 billion Swiss francs as it continued to do well across its five indications.

Also faring well under the oncology umbrella was: Herceptin (trastuzumab), for HER2-positive breast cancer, rising 11% to 1.4 billion Swiss francs; Xeloda (capecitabine), for colorectal, stomach and breast cancer, which grew 23% to 352 million Swiss francs; and MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab), for non-Hodgkin’slymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia as well as rheumatoid arthritis, for which overall sales climbed 13% to 1.6 billion Swiss francs.

Elsewhere, sales of Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a), for hepatitis B and C, rose 15% to 441 million Swiss francs, US turnover of Lucentis (ranibizumab) for wet age-related macular degeneration jumped 27% to 327 million Swiss francs, and the antiviral Tamiflu (oseltamivir) leapt 32% to 517 million Swiss francs, although sales the year-ago period were relatively low and the group says its growth has “slowed significantly” since December.

Roche’s new kid on the block RoActemra/Actemra (tocilizumab), which hit the all-important US market in early January for rheumatoid arthritis, also continued to do well, with turnover rocketing 236% to 66 million Swiss Francs.

On the Diagnostics side, first-quarter sales hit 2.5 billion Swiss francs, an increase of 9% in local currencies (7% in Swiss francs), which was “substantially ahead of the global market”, Roche said.

All five business areas under the diagnostics banner grew sales in local currencies, with Professional Diagnostics (+8% to 1.2 billion Swiss francs), Diabetes Care (+4% to 708 million Swiss francs) and Applied Science (up 15% to 226 million Swiss francs) the biggest drivers of growth.

Positive outlook for the year
According to the Basel-based group’s chief executive Severin Schwan, Roche “is off to a very good start in 2010”, and based on its performance in the period the group expects sales for the year for the Pharmaceuticals division and for the Group to rise in the mid-single-digit range (in local currencies; excluding Tamiflu). As for Diagnostics, full-year sales are expected to grow significantly ahead of the market, it said.

Sales of Tamiflu for 2010 are forecast to drop to 1.2 billion Swiss francs from 3.2 billion Swiss francs as demand following the pandemic swine flu scare retreats, but despite this the company says it is still aiming to achieve double-digit core per share growth at constant exchange rates, and says it should have repaid a quarter of the debt raised to pay for the Genentech transaction by year end.

On the development side, Roche previously announced plans to launch at least six new medicines by the end 2014, and Schwan has now confirmed that, following discussions with US regulators, the firm is planning to submit a marketing application for its innovative breast cancer treatment T–DM1 sometime this year, “based on strong Phase II data in women who have not responded to prior treatments”.