Are Skyrocketing Drug Prices Really Needed for Innovation?

Apr 22, 2015

Are Skyrocketing Drug Prices Really Needed for Innovation? 

 Amgen’s earnings report today indicates that R&D costs fell 14% while drug prices continue to climb.  Enbrel’s price increased 19% while the price of Neulasta continued to climb as well.

“The pharmaceutical industry’s argument about needing high prices to fund innovation through R&D fall flat. It’s clear there is no direct correlation between R&D spending and price increases,” John Rother, CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care.

Amgen earnings boosted by higher drug prices, lower R&D

By Deena Beasley

(Reuters) – Amgen Inc reported higher first-quarter earnings on Tuesday, helped by price increases for its best-selling drugs, as well as lower spending on research and development.

Amgen shares, which rose 1.5 percent in regular trading, were up another 2.3 percent at $172.25 after hours.

Excluding one-time items, the Thousand Oaks, California, drugmaker earned $2.48 per share in the quarter, beating the average analyst estimate of $2.10, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“The key is that expense reductions were really significantly greater than the street was modeling,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Yee. “The company has clearly proven that they are serious on cost management.”

Amgen, which is entering the cardiovascular sector with new heart failure drug Corlanor and awaits U.S. regulatory approval for cholesterol drug Repatha, expects costs to trend higher for the remainder of the year, said Chief Financial Officer David Meline.

He added, however, that overall cost trims are on track, and Amgen raised its full-year outlook for adjusted earnings per share to between $9.35 and $9.65 from a previous range of $9.05 to $9.40. The company also bumped up the lower end of its full-year revenue estimate to $20.9 billion from $20.8 billion, but left the upper end unchanged at $21.3 billion.

Analysts had been forecasting 2014 earnings of $9.30 per share on revenue of $20.98 billion.

“We have strong momentum as we defend our base business against competition and our transformation efforts are delivering efficiencies and cost savings,” Chief Executive Officer Robert Bradway said, referring to cost containment goals outlined last year.

Amgen’s first-quarter revenue rose 11 percent to $5.03 billion, while spending on research and development fell 14 percent to $856 million.

The company’s sales of rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel rose 13 percent to $1.17 billion, while sales of white blood cell booster Neulasta rose 4 percent to $1.13 billion – both because of price increases. Year-over-year, Amgen raised its price for Enbrel by 19 percent.

Stronger demand pushed sales of multiple myeloma drug Kyprolis up 59 percent to $108 million, and sales of bone drugs Prolia and Xgeva up 29 percent to $612 million.

The drugmaker posted a quarterly net profit of $1.62 billion, or $2.11 per share, up from $1.07 billion, or $1.40 per share, a year earlier. (Reporting by Deena Beasley. Editing by Andre Grenon)