By Justin George Varghese and Pushkala Aripaka
(Reuters) - Indivior Plc's best selling drug is losing market share slower than some analysts had predicted and its new drug is performing on target, lifting shares in the company despite its forecast of a possible loss this year.
The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year cleared the way for market access to cheaper alternatives to Indivior's blockbuster opioid addiction treatment Suboxone film, a move which the company itself said could result in the rapid loss of market share.
The British based company, which reported revenue of over $1 billion (£766 million) last year - generated largely from the U.S. - said on Thursday it expects 2019 net revenue to fall to between $525 million and $575 million this year.
It also warned it could post a loss of up to $40 million or a profit of up to $10 million this year, versus analyst expectations of a loss of $14 million.
Sales in the U.S., rose despite generic competition.
The company, which was indicted last month for illegal marketing of Suboxone in the United States and fined $3 billion, launched its own generic in February to mitigate the hit to sales.
The stock closed up 5.2 percent in London. It had been pummelled following the decision to open up the U.S. market to cheaper copycat drugs and has lost nearly two-thirds of its value since the indictment.
The U.S. accuses Indivior of deceiving doctors and healthcare benefit programs into believing its Suboxone Film version was safer and less susceptible to abuse than similar drugs, at a substantial cost to the government - a key customer.
(Graphic - Indivior loses over £3 billion in value since FDA first approves generic, https://tmsnrt.rs/2D1tfwP)
NOT AS BAD
Indivior's generic registered a strong launch and managed to claim about 50 percent share of the generic film market, Finance Chief Mark Crossley said on an analyst call.
In line with the company's earlier warning, market share of its branded Suboxone fell, but not as much as feared.
"Despite generic versions of Suboxone film launching on 20 February, film market share stood at 40 percent on 31 March, which implies a much slower market share erosion than typical," analysts at Jefferies said in a note.
Crossley said Suboxone Film's resilience was driven by its patient base. "We believe the switch to a generic product is certainly being carefully considered by payers and healthcare professionals," adding that pricing also played a role.
However, he said this was not sustainable. The industry expects Suboxone's market share could be reduced by 70 percent in the coming months and 90 percent by the end of this year.
NEXT BLOCKBUSTER ON TRACK
Indivior is hoping its long-lasting opioid addiction Sublocade injection will make up for Suboxone's losses.
Sublocade injections are delivered direct to doctors' offices for administration - a move by the company to curb opioid abuse, instead of having to go to the pharmacy to pick up tablets or its existing under-the-tongue Suboxone film.
Sublocade sales rose to $11 million in the first quarter, up from $7 million in the fourth quarter and on track to meet the company's annual expectations of between $50 million and $70 million.
Indivior said there was "encouraging progress" in delivering Sublocade and this will drive accelerated net revenue growth to reach its targeted $1 billion-plus peak net revenue goal.
(Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Elaine Hardcastle)