(Reuters) - Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc Chief Executive Leonard Schleifer signaled that the U.S. biotech was on track to reduce its reliance on its flagship drug Eylea, as the company awaits the approval of two potential blockbuster treatments.
Eylea has powered much of the company’s explosive growth since late 2011, but sales growth in the United States has slowed in recent quarters as the market saturates and competition heats up.
Regeneron said on Thursday it expected single-digit percentage increase in U.S. net Eylea sales in 2017, while Wall Street is expecting an 11.3-12.9 percent rise, said Evercore ISI’s Mark Schoenebaum.
Indicating the shift, the company said on a post-earnings call that this is the last year it will provide a separate forecast for the eye drug.
Regeneron is betting on two key treatments - Dupixent for eczema and Sarilumab for rheumatoid arthritis - to diversify its revenue stream.
A U.S. regulatory decision on Dupixent is expected by March, while the company hopes to resubmit a marketing application for sarilumab this quarter.
Reimbursement discussions for Dupixent are encouraging, Schleifer said on the call.
Schleifer also underscored Regeneron’s practice of not increasing Eylea prices, bucking the industry trend of raising prices on drugs twice a year, often by double digit percentages.
“Price increases are nice, but if you cannot get them you better be able to innovate and that is our sweet spot,” he said.
Other drugmakers, including AbbVie and Allergan, have responded to intense criticism over the high price of prescription medicines by vowing to take one increase a year of less than 10 percent.
Regeneron’s shares rose as much as nearly 4 percent to $366.95.
Tepid sales of Regeneron and Sanofi SA’s cholesterol-fighter Praluent and lower-than-expected collaboration revenue led to a narrow miss on quarterly revenue.
Praluent - a potent but expensive injection - is yet to unlock its blockbuster potential as health insurers await evidence that the drug can reduce heart attacks.
Amgen Inc has already announced positive heart data on its rival drug Repatha, while Regeneron’s trial results are expected later this year.
Global Praluent sales were $41 million, well under analysts’ estimates of $57 million, and the $58 million Repatha generated.
Regeneron and Sanofi suffered a huge setback in January after a federal judge banned Praluent sales, finding it infringed patents held by Amgen.
But concerns were allayed on Wednesday, after a U.S. appeals court ruled that the companies can continue selling the drug, while they appeal the permanent injunction.
Excluding items, Regeneron earned $3.04 per share, edging past the average analysts’ estimate by 1 cent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Total revenue rose 11.7 percent to $1.23 billion, but missed estimates of $1.30 billion.
Reporting by Divya Grover and Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila