Gilead Sciences Inc.
said sales of its COVID-19 treatment Veklury soared during the third quarter, driven by the need to treat people hospitalized with COVID-19 during this summer’s surge in the U.S.
Veklury, which is used to treat patients with severe forms of the disease, had sales of $1.9 billion in the third quarter of 2021, up from $873 million in the same period a year ago.
The jump in sales aligns with the wave of COVID-19 cases caused by the more transmissible delta variant that occurred in late summer.
That wave is ebbing, however, and hospitalizations are down 64%, compared with the Aug. 28 peak in COVID-19-related hospital stays, according to remarks made earlier this week by Dr. Rochelle Wolensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Over 60% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. received Veklury,” Johanna Mercier, Gilead’s chief commercial officer, told investors on Thursday, according to a FactSet transcript of the earnings call. “We continue to expect Veklury sales to track hospitalizations, which, you can see, peaked at the end of August and have been declining ever since.”
Veklury was the first new drug authorized to treat COVID-19, back in May of 2020. It has since been used to treat more than 9 million people worldwide, including 2 million in the third quarter of this year alone.
It’s also a moneymaker for the drug maker, generating about 25% of Gilead’s total revenue for the quarter. Including sales of Veklury, total third-quarter revenue for Gilead rose 13%, year-over-year. Excluding the drug, sales declined 3% during those three months.
“Veklury now looks set to deliver close to twice the revenue we expected at the start of the year,” Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day said during the call. “While our base business has clearly been affected by COVID, it is also [showing] resilience.”
As a result of the unexpected uptick in sales of Veklury, Gilead updated its guidance for the year. It’s now planning between $4.5 billion and $4.8 billion in sales of Veklury, compared with a previous estimate of $2.7 billion to $3.1 billion.
It also updated guidance for total product sales, to between $26.0 billion and $26.3 billion, compared with previous guidance of $24.4 billion and $25.0 billion.
That said, the company believes that Veklury will be in much less demand in the fourth quarter, given the expectation that there will continue to be fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations for the rest of the year.
Gilead’s stock is up 10.8% so far this year, while the broader S&P 500
has gained 21.2%.