Boehringer Ingelheim has posted an impressive set of financials for 2011, boosted by its anticoagulant Pradaxa hitting blockbuster status and continued growth for the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease big-seller Spiriva.

Operating income climbed 19.8% to 2.27 billion euros, while revenues were up 4.6% to 13.17 billion euros. Pharmaceutical sales were up 5.3% to 10.01 billion euros, driven by Spiriva (tiotropium), which is partnered with Pfizer and brought in 3.15 billion euros, up 10.1%.

The blood pressure drug Micardis (telmisartan) rose 2.4% to 1.59 billion euros, while its other COPD treatment Combivent (ipratropium and albuterol) contributed 766 million euros, up 5.4%. However the most striking performance came from Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate) as sales reached 629 million euros. Boehringer noted that the drug achieved revenues of more than $1 billion in the March 2011-February 2012 period.

Most of those sales come from the USA, where Pradaxa became the first drug approved (in 2010) for the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation for 50 years. Speaking at the company's annual press conference, chairman Andreas Barner told PharmaTimes World News that he is reasonably pleased with the take-up of the drug in Europe, though some countries are slower than others, notably the UK, due to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence only issuing final guidance recommending its use last month.

One slight blot on the landscape was the continuing struggle in Germany to launch the new once-daily diabetes treatment Trajenta (linagliptin) partnered with Eli Lilly. Prof Barner spoke about the controversial Act for the Restructuring of the Pharmaceutical Market in Statutory Health Insurance (AMNOG), which involves an early benefit assessment and a negotiation of the reimbursement price for drugs, saying that "while we fundamentally agree with the law…we do not agree with the Joint Federal Committee (Gemeinsame Bundesausschuss)" which is "often prescribing overwhelmingly from economic considerations of comparator therapies when determining additional benefit".

The German Ministry of Health is reducing its reviews of innovative medicines "primarily to a cost factor", Prof Barner said, noting that "it is neither in the interests of patients, nor in the interests of Germany as a research and industry location, that we sell medicines at the lowest prices in Europe and undertake research at the highest costs". When asked by PharmaTimes World News whether he could envisage a time where research-based firms will simply not bother launching products in Europe where many states seem to be interested only in affordability, he said he was optimistic that the pressure from patients and doctors to get access to truly innovative medicines will lead to politicians looking past merely short-term pricing issues.

Prof Barner concluded that the results for 2011 "confirm our strategy of organic growth, with our own R&D, so that Boehringer Ingelheim’s sustained independence remains ensured". He ruled out any major acquisitions and mentioned that a series of new launches are being lined up over the next three years (more on this in the next few days in PharmaTimes), as well as continued building of its biopharmaceuticals business, including biosimilars.

Boehringer is "growing markedly above the market average", Prof Barner said, adding wryly that "we are not unhappy, in this sense, about being a boring company" that achieves its goals.