Roche Holding (RHHBY 1.07%) grew sales by 2% year over year in the first quarter, but the results were affected by the weaker Swiss franc, the currency in which the Swiss pharmaceutical company reports its profits and losses. On a constant currency basis, sales were up a more promising 7% year over year.

Sales of Roche's drugs grew by 3% in Swiss fancs, led by hemophilia treatment Hemlibra, which saw sales increase 146%, and sales of cancer treatment Tecentriq, which nearly doubled year over year. On the downside, sales of Avastin, Rituxan and Herceptin, which are all facing competition from biosimilars, decreased by 13%, 15%, and 24%, respectively.

Roche's diagnostic division didn't perform as well with sales down 1% year over year in Swiss francs. The company gained Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA in March for its COVID-19 tests that are run on its cobas 6800 and 8800 systems, which drove sales of its molecular diagnostics tests up 22%.

Unfortunately, the pandemic caused sales of centralized and point of care solutions, which make up a majority of the diagnostic division, to decrease by 6% year over year because patients weren't going to their doctors for routine care. Tests for diabetes also decreased 9% year over year.

Scientist working in a laboratory

Image source: Getty Images.

The quarterly report also identified pipeline drugs that failed to make the cut. Idasanutlin, which was being tested for patients with acute myeloid leukemia, failed a phase 3 clinical trial. Balovaptan also flopped in a phase 3 study in adult patients with autism. Prasinezumab, which Roche licensed from Prothena (PRTA 3.41%), failed a phase 2 clinical trial in patients with Parkinson's disease, but Roche and Prothena haven't completely eliminated the drug's potential.