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Roche profit rises 17% in 2020 but its pharma division suffers

While on the one hand, the company Roche had a very good year in 2020, on the other hand, it was affected by the corona crisis.Thus, the company’s net profit increased by 17% compared to the year before, reaching $16.73 billion (€13.96 billion). However, Roche’s pharmaceutical division was affected and sales fell by 2%.



The Swiss multinational Roche increased its net profit in 2020 to $16.73 billion (€13.96 billion), a growth of 17% compared with the previous year’s accounts. “It was mainly due to a lower goodwill impairment compared to the previous year,” the company explained.

At the same time, the company suffered the impact of the pandemic in its pharmaceutical division, where sales fell by 2%. In contrast, the Diagnostics division grew by 14%. In Roche’s case, losing 2020 is significant, as many of the drugs that enjoyed good sales were approved in 2012, which means that they are enjoying their last years of patent.

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The pandemic has significantly affected the figures

On the one hand, the company acknowledges that the pharmaceutical division has managed to mitigate the entry of competing drugs (5.1 billion) but not the saturation of hospitals as a result of the coronavirus, which has meant that other pathologies have been left behind.

Roche’s drugs, especially in the oncology area, have performed well enough to suggest growth in sales for the coming years. The company estimates that in 2021 there will be single-digit growth. Sales of historical drugs such as Avastin and Herceptin (sales fell by 31% and 34%) due to market pressure caused by biosimilars. On the other side of the coin, sales of Tecentriq, Hemlibra and Ocrevus, among others, grew by 32%. Lucentis, the ophthalmological drug, also fell, due to the pressure on care caused by the coronavirus. It is also true that without the pandemic, the aforementioned oncology drugs could have performed better.

This same pandemic, on the other hand, has relaunched the Diagnostics Division, which has grown mainly thanks to the tests that the company has developed, concentrated in the second half of 2020. “Sales in the Diagnostics Division increased by 14% for the year as a whole (28% in the last quarter) due to COVID-19-related diagnostic activity, more than offsetting the reduction in routine diagnostic activity due to the pandemic,” the company explained.

Beyond Roche’s historical business units, the multinational has also had activities related to the coronavirus, beyond its Diagnostics division, which has obviously developed various devices. The Swiss company is working with Regeneron to increase the global supply of an investigational antiviral antibody combination (August). In fact, this compound is used in the United States and was the treatment given to Donal Trump in the election campaign. 

Roche also reached an agreement with Atea to develop a potential oral treatment for Covid-19 (October) and with Moderna to include the recently launched antibody test in its ongoing vaccine trials (December). 

Looking ahead

A lost year for a pharmaceutical company can weigh heavily on its performance. Products that are still on patent are the big drivers and losing twelve months of exploitation is significant. This has happened to Roche as well as to many other companies that have presented results in recent days.

However, the Swiss multinational has shown a portfolio of products for the future that will allow it to enjoy health in the coming years. In the last quarter of 2020, four drugs were approved between the United States and Europe: Gavreto (thyroid cancer); Xofluza (influenza); Xolair (nasal polyps) and Tecentriq plus Avastin (liver cancer).

In addition, the company has 19 new compounds in Phase III clinical trials or with approval applications in progress. In fact, Roche increased investment in research and development by over 8% to 12.2 billion Swiss francs.


(Featured image by AbsolutVision via Pixabay)

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Anthony Donaghue writes about science and technology. Keeping abreast of the latest tech developments in various sectors, he has a keen interest on startups, especially inside and outside of Silicon Valley. From time to time, he also covers agritech and biotech, as well as consumer electronics, IT, AI, and fintech, among others. He has also written about IPOs, cannabis, and investing.