Gilead Sciences Inc (NASDAQ:GILD) earnings beat forecasts as sales of its antiviral drug remdesivir were boosted by its use as a treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19).
Remdesivir is now treating one in two hospitalised patients in the United States, said the NASDAQ-listed drug group.
Sales in the fourth quarter rose by 26% to US$7.3bn even though the impact of COVID-19 affected sales of other drugs for hepatitis C and HIV as fewer people went to the see their doctors.
Excluding remdesivir, which is sold under the brand name Veklury, sales fell 7% in the quarter said Gilead.
Remsdesivir revenues rose to US$1.9bn in the three months to end-December 2020, compared to market expectations of about US$1.3bn.
Underlying earnings in the three month period rose by 99% to US2.19 per share.
The company said remdesivir remains a key treatment for people suffering from COVID-19 and predicted sales in 2021 would be up to US$3bn.
In a call, Merdad Parsey, Gilead chief medical officer, said that so far none of the mutations of the virus seen in the UK and South Africa have had an impact on the drug’s effectiveness
Remdesivir does not target the spike proteins of the coronavirus, he said, which are altered in these variants of the virus.
“We have not so far seen mutations that would impact the efficacy of remdesivir,” Parsey added.
Gilead said it is continuing to work on an inhaled version of the COVID-19 drug that is currently given intravenously.
For full-year 2020, revenues rose 10% to US$24.7bn while underlying earnings rose 16% to US$7.09 per share.
For 2021, revenues are forecast by the company in a range of US$23.7bn-25.1bn with underlying earnings US$6.75-7.45 per share.
“As we head into 2021, we have many additional opportunities to help patients, especially in oncology where Trodelvy, for example, has the potential to treat a broad range of cancer types,” the company added.