Merck raises 2022 forecast as COVID pill, cancer drug fuels profit beat

April 28 (Reuters) – Merck & Co (MRK.N) on Thursday reported quarterly revenue and gross sales that beat estimates and raised its full-year forecasts on sturdy demand for top-selling most cancers drug Keytruda, its Gardasil vaccine and COVID-19 antiviral tablet molnupiravir.

The U.S. drugmaker’s shares rose 1.8% to $85.90 earlier than the opening bell as income rose 50% to $15.9 billion, with a lot of the progress coming from gross sales of molnupiravir, which was accepted in November.

Analysts had anticipated gross sales of $14.7 billion, in accordance with Refinitiv knowledge. Excluding molnupiravir gross sales, income grew 19% within the first quarter.

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The corporate now expects molnupiravir gross sales of between $5 billion to $5.5 billion, a minimize to the higher finish of its earlier vary of $5 billion to $6 billion.

“We have now the capability to provide extra to the market and it actually relies upon with what occurs with the pandemic. It is dependent upon whether or not we do see extra outbreaks, new variants,” Chief Monetary Officer Caroline Litchfield advised Reuters.

Merck has shipped 6.4 million programs of the drug and knowledge suggests it has been utilized by roughly 500,000 sufferers globally to this point, executives stated on a post-earnings convention name.

Strong gross sales will assist Merck’s acquisition plans because it seems to diversify earlier than Keytruda’s lack of exclusivity in 2028, stated Millie Grey, analyst at Informa Pharma Intelligence.

Gross sales of Merck’s most cancers immunotherapy Keytruda rose 23% to $4.8 billion, about $300 million greater than analysts had forecast.

Gardasil, which prevents cancers linked to human papillomavirus, introduced in $1.46 billion within the quarter, round $200 million greater than Wall Road estimates, due to sturdy demand particularly from China, Merck stated.

Molnupiravir gross sales stood at $3.2 billion, topping analyst estimates by round $100 million.

Enthusiasm for the tablet, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, has waned because it was proven to be about 30% efficient in lowering hospitalizations, far decrease than a rival antiviral remedy from Pfizer Inc (PFE.N).

Excluding one-time objects, Merck earned $2.14 a share, simply topping analysts’ common estimate of $1.83.

The drugmaker raised its forecast for annual revenue to $7.24 to $7.36 per share and gross sales to $56.9 billion to $58.1 billion, from its earlier view of $7.12 to $7.27 a share and income of $56.1 billion to $57.6 billion.

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Reporting by Michael Erman, further reporting by Manas Mishra; Enhancing by Invoice Berkrot, Arun Koyyur, Alexandra Hudson

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