Merck’s Keytruda tops $2 billion in quarterly sales

Cancer drug helps pharma giant to better-than-expected profit

Merck's cancer immumotherapy Keytruda booked sales of more than $2 billion in a quarter for the first time, exceeding Wall Street's lofty estimates and sending shares up more that 3 per cent on Friday.

Keytruda has been Merck’s most important growth driver with its domination of the lucrative lung cancer space, and shows no sign of slowing as it produces positive clinical data and adds approvals for different types of cancer.

"The key to the Merck story remains continued strong commercial uptake of Keytruda and the release of additional positive clinical data," Credit Suisse analyst Vamil Divan said.

The company also reported slightly higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit as Keytruda sales jumped 66 per cent to $2.15 billion, compared with analysts’ estimate of $2.12 billion.

Merck applied last year to redevelop its mothballed women’s health facility in Swords, Co Dublin, as it looks to ramp up Keytruda production worldwide.

The New Jersey-based drugmaker forecast 2019 adjusted earnings of $4.57 to $4.72 per share versus analysts’ estimate of $4.68. It forecast full-year revenue of $43.2 billion to $44.7 billion, compared with analysts’ estimate of $44.53 billion.

Excluding items, Merck earned $1.04 per share, beating analysts’ average expectations by a penny. – Reuters