The Washington Post

HGS posts increased Q1 revenue as lupus drug sales rise

A patient undergoes a treatment for lupus with Benlysta, Human Genome Sciences’ flagship drug. (Dayna Smith/For The Washington Post)

The company’s revenue for the first quarter totaled $47.1 million, a 77 percent increase over the $26.6 million it brought in during the same period last year. That helped to trim the firm’s net losses for the quarter to $93.5 million, down from $131 million during the prior year’s quarter.

Benlysta, a drug to treat systemic lupus, contributed $31.2 million to the first quarter’s revenue. Benlysta was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last March, marking the first new treatment for the disease in a half century.

The company’s earnings report comes less than a week after HGS rejected an unsolicited buyout offer worth $2.6 billion from British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline. GSK co-developed Benlysta and markets the drug in Europe.

HGS chief executive H. Thomas Watkins said that the company would evaluate its strategic alternatives as a result of the offer, including a potential sale of the company. In a conference call Tuesday afternoon, Watkins said the company would not comment on its process until the board of directors arrives at a decision.

Sales of Benlysta have been slower than some financial analysts had initially predicted and in January HGS cut about 150 employees that the firm added in anticipation of Benlysta’s debut on the market.

But the first quarter’s sales numbers for Benlysta mark the drug’s best quarter yet and executives said they expect to see sales increase at a more rapid pace. Doctors have taken a “wait and try” approach with the drug in the early months because they lack familiarity with how it works, Watkins said.

“As lupus-treating physicians gain experience with Benlysta, we believe their use of Benlysta will expand to greater numbers of patient,” Watkins said in a news release.

Steven Overly is a national reporter covering federal technology and energy policy with a focus on Capitol Hill. He previously covered the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital.



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