UCB is predicting a long spell of growth after posting a respectable set of results for 2012, which saw sales rise despite continued erosion of revenues for its veteran one-time flagship drug Keppra (levetiracetam).

The Belgian drugmaker posted a 7% rise in sales to 3.5 billion euros, weathering a 13% fall in turnover of Keppra to 838 million euros, though the result was given a helping hand by currency effects (at constant exchange rates sales were up 2%). 

New core medicines helped drive growth, with 2012 sales of: Cimzia (certolizumab pegol) for rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease up 50% at 467 million euros; the antiepileptic Vimpat (lacosamide) up 53% at 334 million euros, and Neupro (rotigotine), a patch for Parkinson’s disease and restless legs syndrome, up 40% to 133 million euros.

On the downside, underlying profitability slipped 5% to 655 million euros, but this was largely because of a substantial increase (14%) in R&D expenses, UCB said.

Net profit grew 6% to 252 million euros, bouyed by lower non-recurring expenses, while core earnings per share (EPS) came in at 2.14 euros.

Going forward, Roch Doliveux, UCB's chief executive, said that core medicines, emerging markets and new breakthroughs will drive company growth "for many years".

"During 2012, UCB reached the ‘crossover point’ where the net sales of our new core medicines Cimzia, Vimpat and Neupro achieved combined net sales of EUR 934 million, up 49%, and exceeding those of Keppra, UCB’s leading medicine for many years," he explained.

Consequently, for 2013, the firm is expecting revenues to grow by a low-single-digit percent (excluding exchange rate impacts) to around 3.4 billion euros, and core EPS are expected to be in the 1.90 – 2.05 euros range.  

Speaking to PharmaTimes, Roch said the fact that there are no major patent expiries on the horizon for some time puts the company in a very comfortable position, and he is confident that the combined sales of Cimzia, Vimpat and Neupro will hit 1 billion euros in the second half of the decade, providing some financial security.

UCB's current relative financial stability should help it focus on bringing some exciting new breakthrough's to patients, including an Amgen-partnered antibody in Phase III for postmenopausal osteoporosis, as well as treatments for Lupus and Parkinson's disease, for which there is significant medical need, Roch said.

Buys rights to PD candidate

Meanwhile, in a further show of its partnering strategy, UCB also revealed that it has shelled out $20 million for exclusive global rights to Biotie's mid-stage Parkinson's disease candidate tozadenant (SYN115), as per an agreement going back to 2010.

UCB's decision to exercise its option to license the drug from Biotie follows encouraging top-line data from a Phase II study of the drug.

Under the original terms of the deal, Biotie will remain eligible to receive a potential additional $340 million in future milestone payments but, under an added clause, has gained responsibility for conducting Phase III trials of the drug, in return for additional payments in the low triple digit millions in total over the next six years, based on the successful completion of defined development, regulatory and commercialisation milestones. 

Patient enrolment in the Phase III program is expected to kick off by the first half of 2015.