Biotech and Pharma

Bristol-Myers' cancer drug Opdivo fuels growth, but revenue falls short

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Key Points
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb posts mixed first-quarter results.
  • Bristol's immunotherapy drug, Opdivo, along with another of its medicines, Yervoy, topped Wall Street's expectations in results from a clinical trial presented last week at the American Association for Cancer Research conference.
  • Results from Merck's trial of its immunotherapy drug, Keytruda, sent Bristol-Myers Squibb's shares sliding last week.
A researcher in a Bristol-Myers Squibb laboratory. The drugs — ipilimumab (brand name Yervoy) and nivolumab (Opdivo) — belong to a class called checkpoint inhibitors and are made by Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Emile Wamsteker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Bristol-Myers Squibb's anticoagulant and immunotherapy drugs drove first-quarter revenue growth, but not enough to top expectations.

Bristol beat analysts' earnings estimates but fell short of revenue expectations. The company boosted its full-year forecast.

Here's how the earnings report compared with what Wall Street expected:

  • Earnings: 94 cents per share, adjusted vs. 85 cents per share forecast by Thomson Reuters
  • Revenue: $5.19 billion vs. $5.23 billion forecast by Thomson Reuters

Bristol-Myers Squibb reported net income of $1.5 billion, or 91 cents per share, in the first quarter. When stripping out special items, the company earned $1.5 billion, or 94 cents per share, beating analyst estimates of 85 cents per share.

In the quarter, Bristol's revenue increased 5 percent to $5.19 billion from $4.93 billion in the period last year. The gain, however, was less than analysts were expecting.

Sales of anticoagulant Eliquis grew 37 percent, and sales of immunotherapy drug Opdivo increased 34 percent. Each drug generated $1.51 billion in revenue.

Bristol increased its adjusted earnings forecast to between $3.35 and $3.45, up from $3.15 and $3.30. This assumes worldwide revenue increases in the mid-single digits and an effective tax rate 17 to 18 percent.

"I am confident that strong commercial execution, upcoming Phase 3 readouts across our oncology pipeline and continued strategic use of business development position us well for future growth," CEO Giovanni Caforio said in a statement.

Results from a clinical trial of Opdivo, along with another of its medicines, Yervoy, topped Wall Street's expectations. Presented last week at the American Association for Cancer Research conference, they showed the combination reduced the risk of cancer progression or death in its study by 42 percent when compared with chemo.

Merck's drug, Keytruda, reduced the risk of death in the trial by 51 percent when combined with chemotherapies, versus chemo alone. The results aren't directly comparable because they were tested in different categories of patients with advanced lung cancer. Still, the results sent Bristol's shares sliding.

Shares dipped about 1 percent Thursday.

—CNBC's Meg Tirrell contributed to this report