In Pharmaceuticals, medicines for HER2-positive breast cancer (Herceptin, Perjeta, Kadcyla) saw very strong growth of 23% as the combination of Perjeta and Herceptin in treatment becomes increasingly widespread. Avastin (+6%), which is used to treat seven different cancers, also continued to grow strongly, with increased use in two recently approved indications, ovarian and cervical cancer, as well as breast and lung cancer. MabThera/Rituxan (+5%), used in treatment for blood cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, also made a significant contribution to growth. Actemra/RoActemra (+27%), for rheumatoid arthritis, benefited from increased demand in early stage treatment and in monotherapy, as well as with the new subcutaneous formulation. Xolair (+28%) continued to grow significantly after its approval for an additional indication, chronic hives, in 2014. There was strong uptake of new products, in particular the newly-acquired medicine Esbriet for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and Gazyva/Gazyvaro for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Generic competition impacted two medicines, Xeloda, a chemotherapy drug and Valcyte, an antiviral medicine. Pegasys, a medicine for hepatitis also declined in the quarter, as a result of competition from a newer generation of treatment.
In Diagnostics, sales increased 6% in the first quarter, with Professional Diagnostics (+6%) driving growth from its immunodiagnostics business. Sales were up 10% in Molecular Diagnostics, 14% in Tissue Diagnostics and 1% in Diabetes Care.
The Swiss franc appreciated against a number of currencies, in particular the euro, after the Swiss National Bank lifted its exchange rate peg in January. The impact of the weaker euro was more than offset by the stronger US dollar. The Japanese yen continued to weaken against the Swiss franc, as did a number of Latin American and other European currencies. Overall, exchange rates had a negative impact of 2 percentage points on first quarter sales growth.
Commenting on the Group's results, Roche CEO Severin Schwan said: "We started the year with strong growth and good uptake of new products. In particular, I am pleased to see continued strong demand for Perjeta for breast cancer, as well as Esbriet, which was recently approved in the US for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. During the first quarter, the FDA also granted a second Breakthrough Therapy Designation for our cancer immunotherapy medicine anti-PDL1, for a specific type of lung cancer, in addition to bladder cancer. In Diagnostics, we further broadened the menu for the recently launched cobas 6800/8800 instrument platform. Overall, we are on track to reach our full-year targets for 2015."
Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is a leader in research-focused healthcare with combined strengths in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. Roche is the world's largest biotech company, with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and neuroscience. Roche is also the world leader in in vitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics, and a frontrunner in diabetes management. Roche's personalised healthcare strategy aims at providing medicines and diagnostics that enable tangible improvements in the health, quality of life and survival of patients. Founded in 1896, Roche has been making important contributions to global health for more than a century. Twenty-four medicines developed by Roche are included in the World Health Organization Model Lists of Essential Medicines, among them life-saving antibiotics, antimalarials and chemotherapy.
In 2014, the Roche Group employed 88,500 people worldwide, invested 8.9 billion Swiss francs in R&D and posted sales of 47.5 billion Swiss francs. Genentech, in the United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche Group. Roche is the majority shareholder in Chugai Pharmaceutical, Japan.