ZURICH (Reuters) – Many patients have overcome initial fears of COVID-19 infections and resumed doctor visits, Roche’s drug unit chief said, helping health systems even in hard-hit regions like Texas, Florida and California return to “more or less” normal capacity.
Swiss-based Roche’s results this year have been dented as patients around the world shied away from hospitals and clinics during lockdowns, lowering demand for drugs including eye medicine Lucentis, multiple sclerosis drug Ocrevus and hemophilia medicine Hemlibra and leading to a 10% second-quarter sales decline.
Bill Anderson, CEO of Roche’s main pharmaceuticals unit with about $50 billion in annual sales, said in an interview on Tuesday that most of the world’s health care systems have re-stabilized, “even in places that had reasonably high levels of COVID”.
“In the month of August, you had places like Texas, Florida, California with a lot of infections,” Anderson told Reuters.
“But we saw the health care system was more or less back at normal capacity. I think that was probably mostly a one-time thing, where people were really unsure, they were afraid to go out of the house, afraid to go to their family doctor, because maybe they would get COVID.”
The public’s understanding of risks has grown since the pandemic began, he added, boosting their confidence to move more freely.
Anderson’s description of recovering demand underpins Roche move this summer to stick to its original 2020 forecast — for full-year sales to grow in the low- to mid-single-digit percentage range — despite the second-quarter revenue tumble.
Anderson did not give specific sales figures. Roche, which is expecting initial clinical trial data on the anti-COVID-19 drug it is developing with U.S.-based Regeneron this month, reports third-quarter sales on Oct. 15.
(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)