Gilead raises sales outlook to include COVID-19 treatment remdesivir

Gilead Sciences Inc pharmaceutical company is seen after they announced a Phase 3 Trial of the investigational antiviral drug Remdesivir in patients with severe coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Oceanside, California, US, 29 April  2020
Gilead Sciences Inc pharmaceutical company is seen after they announced a Phase 3 Trial of the investigational antiviral drug Remdesivir in patients with severe coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Oceanside, California, US, 29 April 2020Reuters

Gilead Sciences Inc on Thursday posted worse-than-expected quarterly results, but raised its 2020 sales forecast to include revenue from its antiviral drug remdesivir, one of the only treatments shown to help COVID-19 patients.

Gilead said it expects total 2020 sales of $23 billion to $25 billion, up from its previous range of $21.8 billion to $22.2 billion.

"We think this implies up to $1 billion to $3 billion of remdesivir, ... a positive that was not expected at the start of the year," said Jefferies analyst Michael Yee.

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Gilead's second-quarter sales fell nearly 10 per cent from a year earlier to $5.1 billion, short of the average analyst estimate of $5.3 billion, according to Refinitiv.

The results reflected weak sales of Gilead's hepatitis C drugs and flagship HIV treatments during coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. The company said it expects its HIV drugs and hepatitis C sales to begin regaining momentum in the current third quarter.

Adjusted earnings for the second quarter of $1.11 per share fell short of analysts' average estimate by 34 cents.

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Shares of Gilead, which closed up about 1 per cent in regular trading, were down 3.5 per cent at $69.80 in extended trading. Second-quarter sales of Gilead's HIV drugs fell 1 per cent from a year earlier to $4 billion, while sales of drugs to cure hepatitis C fell 47 per cent to $448 million due to fewer new patients and competition from rival drugs.

Gilead this month began commercial sales of remdesivir, which is given to hospitalized patients by infusion. The drug was granted emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration in May after it demonstrated an ability to shorten hospital stays for COVID-19 patients, but does not yet have full US approval. It was approved in Japan.

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Demand for remdesivir continues to outstrip supply in many parts of the world.

Gilead's chief executive, Daniel O'Day, on a conference call, said the company expects by the end of September to be producing enough remdesivir to meet real-time global demand.

Gilead said it still expects to manufacturer 2 million or more remdesivir treatment courses cumulatively in 2020, and its revenue outlook reflects expected sales of up to 1.5 million courses this year.

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The company said it has launched a clinical trial of an inhaled formulation of remdesivir, with the aim of more effectively delivering the drug to lung tissue. Gilead also plans to study the drug in patients with earlier-stage COVID-19.

The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is currently conducting a trial of remdesivir in combination with Olumiant, an arthritis drug from Eli Lilly & Co , and those results are expected next month.

So far, only remdesivir and the generic steroid dexamethasone have been shown in rigorous clinical trials to help patients with COVID-19.