Novartis shares surge on positive results from key cancer drug trial; a 'best-case scenario'

March 27, 2023 5:18 AM EDT
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(Updated - March 27, 2023 5:38 AM EDT) -- Shares in Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) saw their biggest intraday climb in fifteen months on Monday after the pharmaceutical giant announced positive results from a highly anticipated trial of its drug used to treat hormone-driven early-stage breast cancer.

In a statement, the Swiss company said a Phase III study of about 5,100 adults found that its Kisqali breast cancer medicine, when combined with endocrine therapy, "significantly" reduced the risk of the recurrence of the disease when compared to just endocrine therapy alone.

A panel of independent experts also recommended that the trial be stopped early because its primary goal of helping patients both survive and be free of breast cancer had been met.

"These data have the potential to be paradigm-shifting for patients at risk of recurrence," said Novartis chief medical officer Shreeram Aradhye. "Our teams are working on submissions to health authorities around the world with the hope to bring Kisqali to many more patients diagnosed with breast cancer."

The results from the trial showed a clinically meaningful benefit in a broad population and will likely drive at least a 2% to 4% upgrade to consensus earnings estimates for Novartis, analysts at Jefferies said.

Novartis is increasingly betting on the success of its drug development pipeline, as the company is looking to spin off its Sandoz generic medicine unit in the second half of 2023. Kisqali, which saw sales jump by nearly a third to $1.2B last year, could play a major role in this strategy, with analysts at ZKB noting that the trial results may boost sales by as much as $12.7B.

Novartis did not provide further specifics about the trial, saying only that the full results will be presented at an "upcoming medical meeting." The date and place for this conference were not given.

Morgan Stanley analyst Mark Purcell said the readout was a "positive surprise."

"We forecast Kisqali2026 sales of $1.9bn (vs $2.0bn for consensus) and include $0.6bn of risk-adjusted 2030 sales in the adjuvant setting."

BofA analyst Graham Parry believes this was the best-case scenario for Novartis.

"We view this as best case scenario on a key catalyst for Novartis. Maintain Buy."

As of 05:55 EST (10:55 GMT), Novartis shares are up 6% in pre-open Monday.

By Scott Kanowsky and Senad Karaahmetovic

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