Cosentyx, Entresto drive topline growth for Novartis in Q4 Overall net income fell for the full year compared to 2018
Novartis has reported sales growth in the fourth quarter of 2019, thanks to its renewed focus on its new medicines, including gene therapy Zolgensma.
Although net income fell by 7% to $1.1bn for the full year – due to higher taxes, according to Novartis – net sales were up 8%, with the Swiss pharma bringing home $12.4bn in the fourth quarter.
The 8% net sales increase was mainly driven by continued growth of Novartis’ newer drugs, namely its heart failure drug Entresto (sacubitril/valsartan), psoriasis treatment Cosentyx (secukinumab) and spinal muscular atrophy gene therapy Zolgensma (onasemnogene abeparvovec).
Cosentyx was Novartis’ top-seller, bringing in $3.6bn in Q4, a 28% growth from the third quarter, where Novartis posted sales of $937m. The IL-17 inhibitor has continued to outpace expectations, and has been stacking up indications, with the most recent filing for approval in non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis.
However, in head-to-head trials with both AbbVie’s Humira (adalimumab) and Skyrizi (risankizumab), Cosentyx failed to show superiority – a potential sign of trouble ahead as the psoriasis/biologic market becomes increasingly competitive.
Following Cosentyx was Entresto, which grew by 71% in Q4 to $1.7bn, an impressive increase from the $430m Novartis posted for the drug in Q3. According to the company, the momentum of the neprilysin inhibitor was driven by a higher demand in ambulatory settings.
Also continuing on an upward trajectory was Zolgensma, which hit $361m in the fourth quarter. Despite being subject to controversy surrounding manipulated data in early animal studies of the drug, Novartis has not felt the brunt of the scandal on sales of the novel gene therapy.
“We launched an unprecedented five new molecular entities in 2019 and advanced a breadth of early programs in our
pipeline that address significant unmet needs,” said Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan (pictured right).
“Looking ahead, we expect to sustain our long-term growth and margin expansion driven by our in market growth drivers and the 15 ongoing or upcoming major launches, while advancing our rich pipeline,” he added.
Novartis also highlighted success in its approvals from 2019: this included Zolgensma, breast cancer treatment Piqray (alpelisib), multiple sclerosis drug Mayzent (siponimod), wet age-related macular degeneration treatment Beovu (brolucizumab) and sickle cell antibody Adakveo (crizanlizumab).
These new drugs are expected to continue to drive growth into 2020 – newly acquired cholesterol drug inclisiran, gained from Novartis’ acquisition of The Medicines Company, is also expected to reach impressive heights following its likely approval.
Its generics division, Sandoz, also grew 1% to $2.5bn in the fourth quarter, with significant growth in Biopharmaceuticals tipping to 11% - driven mainly by double-digit growth in Europe. However, for the full year, Sandoz net sales were down 1% due to price erosion in the US.