By Michael Erman
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bristol-Myers Squibb (N:), which is set to buy biotechnology company Celgene Corp (O:) soon for $74 billion, posted better-than-expected second-quarter earnings on Thursday on strong sales from its blood thinner Eliquis and rheumatoid arthritis treatment Orencia.
Bristol shares rose 3.8% to $44.88 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
The earnings follow mixed results released Wednesday afternoon from a closely watched lung cancer trial for its blockbuster immunotherapy Opdivo in combination with either chemotherapy or its other immuno-oncology drug, Yervoy.
Bristol-Myers said it earned $1.43 billion in the quarter, or 87 cents a share, compared with $373 million, or 23 cents a share, a year earlier.
Excluding one-time items, the drugmaker said it earned $1.18 a share, beating analyst expectations of $1.07 a share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Bristol-Myers increased its full-year earnings forecast by 10 cents a share to $4.20 to $4.30 a share.
Revenue in the quarter was $6.27 billion, compared with Wall Street expectations of $6.11 billion.
Sales of Eliquis rose 24% to $2.04 billion and Orencia sales rose 9% to $778 million. Both drugs performed better than analysts expected.
Opdivo sales were also up 12% to $1.82 billion. Despite strong sales for Opdivo, there has been widespread investor concerns about competition from Merck & Co’s (N:) rival treatment Keytruda, which has surpassed Opdivo in sales in recent quarters. The company said they expect additional pressure on Opdivo’s sales next year.
The lung cancer data released on Wednesday is unlikely to allay those concerns.
Opdivo combined with chemotherapy failed to extend overall survival more than chemotherapy alone in patients with advanced non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
The result is likely to further solidify Keytruda as an initial treatment for advanced lung cancer, by far the most lucrative oncology market.
Opdivo did demonstrate an improvement in overall survival in combination with Yervoy in lung cancer patients whose tumors expressed at least 1% of the PD-L1 protein that the drug is designed to target. That accounts for about 70% of NSCLC patients, the company said.
Some analysts and investors have suggested that one reason Bristol launched its bid for Celgene was over concerns about Opdivo’s growth after losing ground to Merck.
Bristol said it still expects the deal to close in late 2019 or early 2020.
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