The company's chairman, Dr Alessandro Banchi, told a news conference yesterday that the company was growing twice as fast as the pharmaceutical industry average, helped by a strong showing in the important US market.
Revenues rose more than 10 per cent to just under €8.2 billion, with growth driven by surging sales for Spiriva (tiotropium), Boehringer's drug for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which was launched last year in the US and Japan. This product, partnered with Pfizer, posted sales up 130 per cent to €525 million, a performance that helped lift the company's operating profit by 50per cent to €1.4bn and net profit by 70 per cent to over €900m.
Boehringer's biopharmaceuticals business, which includes contract manufacturing operations and sales of in-house biologic drugs, put in a strong performance last year and deserved a special mention, said Dr Banchi. Sales at this division rose by 40 per cent to €400 million, helped by ongoing collaborations with the likes of Amgen, Pfizer and Schering. Biologic product sales amounted to €170m.
Overall, Boehringer's contract manufacturing activities, across biologics and chemical drugs, accounted for 8 per cent of the company's total sales in 2004. Pharmaceuticals captured the major portion with 76 per cent of the total, followed by consumer health care with 12 per cent.
2004 also saw the approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of Boehringer's €255m biopharmaceutical production plant in Biberach, which is being used to make the active ingredient in Amgen and Wyeth's rheumatoid arthritis treatment Enbrel (etanercept), as well as other products.
Biopharmaceutical production is a key element in Boehringer's business, with almost 2,000 employees involved in the development and manufacturing of therapeutic proteins, monoclonal antibodies, single chain antibodies and gene therapeutics, of whom 1,500 are based at Biberach. The company entered this sector in 1986 and has been the market leader in Europe since 1998.
Boehringer's bestselling product was once again Alna/Flomax (tamsulosin) for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia, albeit with sales largely flat at €740m. In second place was Mobic (meloxicam) for rheumatoid arthritis which grew 44per cent to €670m, followed by blood pressure treatment Micardis (telmisartan), which rose 41per cent to €570m.
Looking ahead to 2005, the company said that it would be rolling out the new antidepressant Cymbalta (duloxetine) - partnered with Eli Lilly - into additional markets, and would also be launching its new HIV drug tipranavir. This would help grow sales to around €9bn this year, said Boehringer.