GENEVA — Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, which helps make tests to detect the COVID-19 illness, said Wednesday its sales edged up in the first quarter despite the broad economic volatility created by the pandemic.
The Basel-based company noted its cobas test for the novel coronavirus drew an emergency use exemption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It said clinical trials continue in several countries to determine whether Roche’s rheumatoid arthritis treatment, Actemra, might be used for severe COVID-19 pneumonia.
Roche said a serology test to detect antibodies in people exposed to the coronavirus was in late-stage development, with a target for availability in May.
It has ramped up tenfold its production capacity for testing for the new coronavirus. Sales rose 2% in the first quarter to 15.14 billion Swiss francs ($15.63 billion).
CEO Severin Schwan hailed Roche’s “important contributions” to the fight against COVID-19 as the pandemic challenges many healthcare systems, and said the company’s business “has so far proved to be resilient in this difficult environment.”
Roche confirmed its outlook for the year, with sales expected to grow in the low- to mid-single digits and core earnings per share to be “broadly in line” with sales. It said key growth drivers included cancer medication Tecentriq and multiple sclerosis medicine Ocrevus, though it’s top three selling drugs each saw sales fall by double-digit percentages.
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