Not bad, Teva Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: TEVA ) , not bad at all. The generic drug giant saw sales grow 12% year over year in the first quarter, despite a 32% drop in U.S. generic drug sales.
Because of the nature of the U.S. generics market, launches of new generic drugs tend to bring in a lot more revenue than generic drugs that have been on the market for a while. Without many launches over the past year, Teva's seen the U.S. generic drug sales crumble.
Fortunately, Teva purchased Ratiopharm at just the right time. The generic drug additions in Germany, France, Spain, and Italy helped propel European sales up 66%. Organic growth in Europe was a measly 3%.
Copaxone, a branded multiple sclerosis product, also helped save the revenue line. Sales were up 14%, which sounds impressive until you realize the company increased the U.S. price by 15% in January. On one hand, it's great that the company can take price increases -- three in the last 13 months -- even in the face of competition from oral offering Gilenya from Novartis (NYSE: NVS ) and injectable medications such as Biogen Idec's (Nasdaq: BIIB ) Avonex and Rebif, which is sold by Merck KGaA and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) . But how long can it keep the price increases going?
Maybe it won't really matter. By the time Copaxone slows down, the U.S. generic sales will pick up again. And Teva will have additional branded products coming in thanks to its purchase of Cephalon (Nasdaq: CEPH ) and over-the-counter products through its partnership with Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) .
That's the joy of diversification and what makes Teva a solid play. You're not going to get overnight doubles like you would from a biotech, but it should provide a lot more growth than you'll get from a big pharma.
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