When Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD) reported its third-quarter results in October, three things jumped out. First, the biotech's hepatitis C virus (HCV) franchise continued to struggle. Second, Gilead's HIV franchise continued to dominate. And third, the company's cash position looked great.

Gilead announced its fourth-quarter and full-year 2017 results after the market closed on Tuesday. Was there a different story for the big biotech this time around? Nope. It was more like a case of deja vu. Here are the highlights from Gilead's update. 

Scientist looking through microscope and another scientist holding dropper

Image source: Getty Images.

Gilead Sciences results: The raw numbers


Q4 2017 

Q4 2016 

Year-Over-Year Change


$5.95 billion $7.32 billion


Net income (loss) from continuing operations

($3.87 billion) $3.11 billion


Adjusted earnings per share (EPS)

$1.78 $2.70


Data source: Gilead Sciences.

What happened with Gilead Sciences this quarter?

Let's first address the most glaring number in Gilead's fourth-quarter results -- that big net loss. There's no reason to worry. The loss stemmed from a $5.5 billion provision for income taxes related to the recent U.S. tax reform legislation. While Gilead took this one-time hit, the company will be in better shape going forward, thanks to lower corporate tax rates in the U.S. 

Aside from this tax charge, Gilead's performance in the fourth quarter wasn't terribly different from the third quarter. Declining HCV sales continued to drag down sales and earnings. Total HCV franchise revenue for the fourth quarter dropped from $3.2 billion in the prior-year period to $1.5 billion. 

Unlike previous quarters in 2017, however, sales for Epclusa fell in the fourth quarter. Competition from AbbVie's new HCV drug Mavyret appeared to make a significant dent in sales for Gilead's drug in the U.S. The only bright spot for Gilead's HCV franchise was Vosevi, which made $170 million in the fourth quarter -- higher than sales for one-time blockbuster Sovaldi.

Gilead yet again had some good news to report for its HIV franchise, though. Fourth-quarter sales for Genvoya soared 88% year over year to $1.06 billion. Descovey enjoyed even stronger percentage growth, with sales jumping 145% year over year to $365 million. Meanwhile, fourth-quarter sales for Gilead's other TAF-based HIV drug Odefsey more than doubled from the prior-year period to $325 million. 

However, some of the growth from these TAF-based regimens came at the expense of Gilead's older HIV drugs. Sales for Truvada in the fourth quarter slipped 8% year over year to $797 million. Atripla's fourth-quarter sales fell nearly 28% below the prior-year period level to $440 million. Stribild and Viread took even larger hits, with sales declining 43% and 35% year over year, respectively.

Gilead's other products essentially treaded water, with combined sales in the fourth quarter of $624 million, compared to $621 million in the prior-year period. These products include Letairis, Ranexa, Ambisome, and Zydelig.

What about cash? The company reported cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities totaling $36.7 billion as of Dec. 31, 2017. That amount was higher than the $32.4 billion on hand at the end of 2016, but dropped from $41.4 billion at the end of the third quarter.

Looking forward

The most important news from Gilead's fourth-quarter update was the biotech's outlook for 2018. The company expects net product sales this year between $20 billion and $21 billion. That's a little lower than some estimates, but Gilead is known to sandbag a little. That was the case with 2017. Gilead gave guidance at the end of the third quarter for full-year net product sales between $24.5 billion and $25.5 billion, but reported actual 2017 net product sales of $25.7 billion.

Still, though, Gilead's 2018 estimate represents another 20% year-over-year revenue decline. In November, Gilead CEO John Milligan predicted that this year could be the "beginning of a growth phase" for the company. That won't happen -- at least not based on the biotech's guidance. 

It's still too early for Gilead's acquisitions of Kite Pharma and Cell Design Labs to start paying off. That's also true for much of the biotech's pipeline, including its promising candidates targeting treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

However, there is one big development on the way: an FDA approval decision on bictegravir/F/TAF in treating HIV. This decision is scheduled to be announced by Feb. 12. Assuming it's approved as expected, the combo appears likely to become the biggest new drug launch of 2018.

Shareholders will also enjoy a fatter dividend check soon. Gilead announced a 10% increase to its dividend beginning in the first quarter of 2018. That should bump the biotech's dividend yield up to around 2.8%. Patient investors will be paid more to wait for Gilead to deliver something different than deja vu down the road.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.