Vertex Pharma profit tops estimates on strong launch of new CF drug

(Reuters) – Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc topped analysts’ forecasts for quarterly profit on Thursday, led by stronger-than expected sales of its latest cystic fibrosis drug as well as double-digit growth in sales of older treatments.

Boston-based Vertex, like other biotech firms developing drugs for rare diseases, has received enormous interest from investors attracted to the value from pricey treatments for conditions such as cystic fibrosis.

Vertex is a leader in treatments for cystic fibrosis (CF), a rare, life-shortening genetic disease that affects some 75,000 people in North America, Europe and Australia, and causes progressive lung damage and loss of lung function.

Vertex’s shares have doubled over the past two years, as sales of its CF treatments continue to grow, and the company develops newer drugs for the disease.

Its combination treatment, Symdeko, raked in sales of $ 34 million in the first seven weeks of sales, well above analysts’ expectations of $ 15 million to $ 20 million, according to Jefferies.

Sales of Vertex’s two other drugs — Orkambi and Kalydeco — grew 20 percent and 34 percent respectively in the quarter ended March 31 and topped analysts’ estimates.

“We are seeing broad coverage in access to Symdeko as the majority of commercial and government payers are reimbursing for the medicine,” Vertex Chief Operating Officer Ian Smith said on a conference call with analysts.

Symdeko is also expected to be the backbone of Vertex’s planned triple-pill combination that could treat up to 90 percent of CF patients. Its older treatments only treat about 45 percent of patients.

Vertex also said it was beginning late-stage trials of a second triple combination CF treatment.

Vertex said income attributable to the company fell 15.1 percent to $ 210.3 million in the first quarter, because of higher research and development expenses and unsold inventory.

Excluding one-time items, Vertex earned 76 cents per share, ahead of analysts’ average estimate of 63 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Vertex’s revenue fell 10.3 percent to $ 640.8 million.

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar

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