Winners and Losers in Biopharma’s Q1 2024 Earnings Season

Collage-of-money-and-golden-bull-and-bear

Pictured: Collage of money and golden bull and bear/Taylor Tieden for BioSpace

Skyrocketing weight-loss drug sales characterized the first quarter of 2024, with some companies beating Wall Street analysts’ earnings estimates, giving a clue to the current business environment and where things might be headed during the rest of the year for the biopharma industry. While Q1 was a generally positive quarter with some notable standout performers, it also featured companies struggling with patent cliffs and falling revenue.

“The results generally exceeded expectations and were received positively,” Emily Field, director, head of European pharmaceuticals equity research at Barclays, told BioSpace.

Among European companies, Field noted that several drugmakers raised guidance, including GSK and Novo Nordisk. While AstraZeneca did not raise its outlook, “it had a strong quarter and there are expectations that it may raise guidance later in the year,” she said.

With weight-loss treatments becoming a rapidly growing area of sales and R&D, the therapies were at the center of many companies’ discussions around their pipelines, including Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk’s financial updates. For the companies that have recently bought into the space, such as Roche and AstraZeneca, the therapeutic area served as a focal point on investor calls, according to Field.

Also developing weight-loss drugs, Amgen CEO Robert Bradway said during an investor call the company was “very encouraged” by Phase II data for its next-generation obesity treatment MariTide, and that it was “actively planning” a Phase III testing program for the injectable drug candidate. All told, Amgen reported total revenues 22% higher than Q1 2023 and the company’s share price rose as much as 13% in reaction to the news.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Biogen reported that its Q1 revenue fell 6.9% year-over-year (YoY). The results were due to declining sales across its multiple sclerosis products, with Tecfidera hit by generic competition. When it comes to full-year guidance, the company said that it expects total revenue to decline by low- to mid-single digital percentage and for its core pharmaceutical revenue to be flat compared with 2023.

Here is BioSpace’s roundup of the winners and losers based on Q1 results:

Winners

Amgen

In addition to providing an update on MariTide, Amgen reported solid Q1 financial results that saw total revenues of $7.4 billion, reflecting growth of product sales by 22%, on the back of 25% volume growth. One of the growth drivers was the integration of sales from its $27 billion takeover of Horizon Therapeutics, which provided an additional $914 million in sales. The acquisition provided Amgen with rare disease sales from Tepezza ($424 million), Krystexxa ($235 million) and Uplizna ($80 million).

AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca reported total revenue increased by 19% to $12.6 billion, which was driven by a 26% jump in total revenue from its oncology business and a 23% rise in its cardiovascular, renal and metabolism (CRM) division. One of the strongest regions for growth for AstraZeneca was in emerging markets, excluding China, where total revenue grew by 27%. AstraZeneca’s shares rose immediately after the release of its financials by over 5%.

Novo Nordisk

The Danish drugmaker posted a 27% increase in operating profit, with sales in its diabetes and obesity care growing by 25%. This was driven by the sales of its GLP-1 products, Ozempic and Wegovy, as the latter product (approved for weight loss) saw sales double. Novo Nordisk updated its full-year guidance for 2024 to sales growth of between 19% and 27%, marking a 1% increase on previous statements.

Despite the growth of sales, the company saw its share price drop by 3% after the release of its Q1 results. When asked why shareholders held a negative view of earnings, Field said it may have been due to Novo Nordisk not raising its guidance based on increased projected sales specific to its diabetes and obesity portfolio, unlike Eli Lilly, which increased guidance by $2 billion on the back of strong first quarter sales of weight-loss drug Zepbound. She also noted that Novo Nordisk’s decision to reduce the net price of Wegovy to chase greater volume may have been misinterpreted as a sign of weakness, despite the list price not changing.

Losers

Biogen

Biogen is in a transition period. The decision to axe its Alzheimer’s treatment Aduhelm and to undertake a cost-reduction program led Biogen CEO Chris Viehbacher to characterize the efforts as a “redesign” of the company in a Q1 investor call, as sales of its Alzheimer’s therapy Leqembi started to pick up. In the short term, the company posted a Q1 product revenue drop of 3%. In the long term, Biogen is looking to Leqembi, approved in 2023, to drive revenue as sales tripled in the quarter to $19 million.

Bristol Myers Squibb

Shares of BMS fell by nearly 8% despite bringing in almost $11.9 billion in Q1, a 5% increase from the same period the prior year and beating consensus estimates in its results. However, the company downgraded its 2024 diluted earnings per share to a range of $0.40 to $0.70, after previously guiding for an EPS of $7.10 to $7.40 in February.

BMS stated that the guidance update was due to the impact of three recent acquisitions—Karuna Therapeutics, Mirati Therapeutics and RayzeBio—in addition to the financial impact of its collaboration with SystImmune. BMS used its Q1 update to announce plans to lay off 2,200 employees this year, as part of a cost-cutting plan to save approximately $1.5 billion by the end of 2025. Looming on the horizon for BMS are the patent cliffs the company is facing for some of its top-selling drugs.

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson’s Q1 results missed analysts’ estimates, with sales of $21.38 billion, a 2.3% growth over 2023 figures but just short of Wall Street expectations of $21.4 billion. Still, the company reported better-than-expected income while also narrowing its full-year guidance. When broken down into the company’s two segments, innovative medicine and medtech, the former division grew sales by 1.1% and the latter by 4.4% YoY. The company’s blockbuster immunosuppressive drug Stelara is facing biosimilar competition as it loses patent protection, and its sales were flat in Q1, bringing in $2.45 billion.

Ben Hargreaves is a freelance science journalist based in Tosse, France. Reach him on LinkedIn.

Back to news