Restructuring costs reduce Roche profits

Global restructuring costs ate into profits as Swiss drugs giant Roche on Wednesday recorded a 16 percent drop in net income to 9.5 billion francs ($10.5 billion) for 2014.

The Basel-based pharmaceutical firm said sales increased by one percent to 47.5 billion francs, an increase of five percent in constant exchange rates, reflecting the strength of the Swiss currency against the yen, the dollar and several Latin American currencies.

The company described its results as “solid overall”.

"It is testament to the strength of our portfolio and the commitment of our employees that we were able to achieve 11 pharmaceutical product approvals and launch 14 new diagnostic instruments and tests," CEO Severin Schwan said in a letter to shareholders.

Analysts polled by the AWP financial news agency had forecast a profit of between 11.2 and 11.5 billion Swiss francs and a turnover of between 46.6 and 47.3 billion francs.
Roche said it had restructured part of its debt in 2014 to take advantage of the low interest environment but this resulted in a one-time loss of 279 million Swiss francs.

Nevertheless the restructuring should lead to higher savings in the long term, it said.
"In total, these costs and impairments resulted, after taxes, in a ten percent lower net income," the company said.
Pharmaceuticals division sales were up one percent in terms of Swiss francs, driven by oncology, including a 20 percent increase in demand in HER2-positive breast cancer medicines and a six percent rise in the sales of Avastin.
A flu epidemic in the United States at the end of last year helped boost sales of drug Tamiflu, which surged 54 percent.
Roche's board is proposing a three percent increase in its dividend to eight francs, which would mark the 28th consecutive year of dividend growth.

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Swiss-American antibody drug ‘effective at preventing Covid infection’

US biotech firm Regeneron and its Swiss partner Roche unveiled promising clinical trial results Monday indicating that an antibody treatment used to treat Covid-19 patients also helps prevent infections.

Swiss-American antibody drug 'effective at preventing Covid infection'
Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The results of the Phase 3 trial showed that the combination of the antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab dramatically reduced the risk of symptomatic infection among people living with Covid-19 patients, Roche said in a statement.

The trial entailed injecting 1,505 people not infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus but living in households with people carrying the virus with the Regeneron antibody cocktail or a placebo.

READ MORE: Why are vaccination appointments still vacant in Zurich?

The trial, which was conducted in cooperation with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, showed that those who received the antibody cocktail saw their risk of symptomatic infection reduced by 81 percent, the companies said.

It also indicated that those treated with casirivimab and imdevimab who did experience symptomatic infection on average saw their symptoms clear within one week — far faster than the three-week average for those who received the placebo.

In a separate part of the study, 204 people who had recently tested positive for Covid-19 but showed no symptoms received either a dose of the antibody cocktail or a placebo.

Those who received the cocktail saw their risk of developing symptoms reduced by 31 percent compared to the placebo group, the companies said.

“Today’s data confirm the potential dual value of casirivimab and imdevimab to reduce household Covid-19 infections and to decrease the disease burden in those who do become infected, when given as a subcutaneous option,” Levi Garraway, Roche’s chief medical officer said in a statement.

“Although vaccinations are increasing globally, there remains a critical unmet need worldwide to prevent infections and provide immediate protection from Covid-19 between close contacts,” he said.

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland is speeding up its vaccination programme

Regeneron president and chief scientist George Yancopoulos agreed, pointing out that in the United States alone, 60,000 people are being diagnosed with Covid-19 every day.

The antibody cocktail “may help provide immediate protection to unvaccinated people who are exposed to the virus”, he said in a statement, adding that it could also potentially “provide ongoing protection for immunocompromised patients who may not respond well to vaccines”.

Regeneron said it would present the data to the US Food and Drug Administration and request it clear the Covid antibody cocktail for use as a preventative treatment.

The companies said they would share the new data with health regulators worldwide.