REUTERS: Drugmaker Merck & Co on Friday raised its full-year profit forecast after beating Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit as sales of blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda nearly doubled.
Sales of Keytruda rose 89.2 percent to US$1.67 billion, edging past sales of its rival immunotherapy Opdivo made by Bristol-Myers Squibb . Analysts had expected Keytruda sales of US$1.59 billion, according to Credit Suisse.
Keytruda and rival Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo have piled up approvals for a wide range of cancers. Both the cancer drugs work by triggering the immune system to attack tumors but Merck leads in lung cancer treatments, both alone and in combination with chemotherapy.
(For a graphic on 'Keytruda vs Opdivo' click https://tmsnrt.rs/2Lo7jlL)
Shares of the Dow component rose 1.4 percent to US$64.9 before the bell. They have risen nearly 14 percent this year, outpacing a 7.1 percent rise in the S&P 500 healthcare index and the 3.3 percent rise in the blue-chip index .
Sales of Merck's cancer preventing Gardasil vaccines rose 30 percent to US$608 million in the quarter and that of animal health unit rose 14.1 percent to US$1.09 billion.
Analysts and investors have been calling for a separation of the unit, but Merck has stressed in the past that it is an important "pillar of growth" and provides diversification from Keytruda.
Merck's total sales rose 5.4 percent to US$10.47 billion.
The company now expects full-year adjusted profit to be between US$4.22 and US$4.30 per share, up from prior guidance of between US$4.16 and US$4.28 per share.
Net income attributable to the company fell to US$1.71 billion, or 63 cents per share, in the second quarter ended June 30, from US$1.95 billion, or 71 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, the company earned US$1.06 per share, ahead of the average analyst estimate of US$1.03 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)