2019 hasn't been a great year so far for United Therapeutics (NASDAQ:UTHR). The pharmaceutical stock was down 20% heading into the company's third-quarter update.

But United Therapeutics announced its third-quarter results before the market opened on Wednesday, spurring a nice jump in early trading. Here's what investors liked about the company's latest update.

Healthcare provider listening to an older male patient's breathing with a stethoscope

Image source: Getty Images.

By the numbers

United Therapeutics reported revenue in the third quarter of $401.5 million. This reflected a 3% decrease from the prior-year period revenue total of $412.7 million. However, the number trounced the consensus revenue estimate from Wall Street analysts of $337.6 million.

The company reported Q3 net income of $132.4 million, or $3.02 per share, based on generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). This reflected an improvement over the net income of $106.5 million, or $2.44 per share, posted in the prior-year period.

Adjusted net income in the third quarter came in at $168.3 million, or $3.83 per share. This was below the net income of $174.9 million, or $3.98 per share, recorded in the same quarter of 2018. However, it blew away the average analysts' adjusted earnings estimate of $2.47 per share.

Behind the numbers

There were several bright spots for United Therapeutics in the third quarter. Sales for the company's top product, pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) drug Remodulin, increased by 10% year over year to $168.3 million driven by strength in international markets.

United Therapeutics' fastest-rising star, though, was Unituxin, with sales for the neuroblastoma drug soaring 31% to $30.1 million. PAH drug Orenitram also delivered strong growth with Q3 sales jumping 15% year over year to $62 million. Sales for Tyvaso, the company's No. 2 best-selling PAH drug, rose 3% to $110.8 million.

The weak spot for United Therapeutics in Q3 was Adcirca. Sales for the drug sank 59% year over year to $30.3 million in the face of generic competition that entered the market in August 2018.

United Therapeutics' bottom line was boosted significantly in the third quarter by lower cost of product sales resulting primarily from a decrease in royalty expense for Adcirca. The company also cut spending across the board, with operating costs declining by 17% from the prior-year period. 

Looking ahead

Like most pharmaceutical stocks, United Therapeutics' lifeblood is its pipeline. CEO Michael Benkowitz highlighted several pipeline developments investors can look forward to in the near future.

The company continues to make progress with its late-stage clinical studies evaluating Unituxin in treating small cell lung cancer and evaluating Tyvaso in pulmonary hypertension (PH) associated with interstitial lung disease. In addition, the company should benefit from the recent update for Orenitram's product label stating that it can delay disease progression of PAH.