Merck KGaA's healthcare revenue up 1.7 percent in Q2, despite lower sales of Rebif, Erbitux, Gonal-f

Merck KGaA announced Thursday that second-quarter sales in its healthcare unit rose 1.7 percent year-over-year to 1.8 billion euros ($2.1 billion), despite declining revenue from Rebif, Erbitux and Gonal-f. The company's overall sales lifted 2.3 percent to 3.9 billion euros ($4.6 billion), as net income jumped 35.1 percent to 421 million euros ($498.4 million).

In the quarter, sales of Rebif fell 3.7 percent organically to 425 million euros ($503.1 million), which Merck explained was due to "competitive pressure from oral formulations." Meanwhile, revenue from Erbitux slipped 7.9 percent organically to 213 million euros ($252.2 million), as a result of competition in Europe, with sales of Gonal-f falling 7.4 percent to 193 million euros ($228.5 million).

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In the second quarter, Merck announced that Bavencio (avelumab), which is partnered with Pfizer, gained FDA approval for the treatment of certain patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma. Meanwhile, in June, the European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use issued a positive opinion regarding authorisation of Mavenclad (cladribine) for the treatment of relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis in patients with high disease activity.

For the full year, Merck reaffirmed that adjusted operating profits are expected to be between 4.4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) and 4.6 billion euros ($5.4 billion), in line with last year's figure of 4.5 billion euros ($5.3 billion). However, the drugmaker said that due to the "strong increase" in the value of the euro against the US dollar and other emerging market currencies, the effects of exchange rate changes on sales are forecast to be neutral, down from a previous view of a slight positive effect of 1 percent to 2 percent. As a result, annual sales are predicted to be in the range of 15.3 billion euros ($18.1 billion) to 15.7 billion euros ($18.6 billion), cut from earlier guidance of between 15.5 billion euros ($18.4 billion) and 16 billion euros ($19 billion).

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