May 1, 2018 / 11:19 AM / a year ago

Keytruda powers Merck to first-quarter beat

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Merck is pictured in this illustration photograph in Cardiff, California, U.S., April 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

(Reuters) - Drugmaker Merck & Co reported a better-than-expected first-quarter profit on Tuesday and raised its adjusted earnings forecast for the year, helped by a more than 150 percent rise in sales of cancer drug Keytruda.

Keytruda, which replaced diabetes treatment Januvia as Merck’s biggest drug by revenue last year, raked in sales of $1.46 billion in the quarter, ahead of the estimated $1.40 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company raised its adjusted per-share earnings forecast for the year to between $4.16 and $4.28 from between $4.08 and $4.23 estimated previously.

Net income fell to $736 million, or 27 cents per share, from $1.55 billion, or 56 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned $1.05 per share. Revenue rose 6.4 percent to $10.04 billion.

Analysts on average were expecting earnings of $1 per share on revenue of $10.11 billion.

Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva

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