Novartis Earnings Call Insights: Commercializing Serelaxin, Short-term Productivity Improvement

On Thursday, Novartis AG ADR (NYSE:NVS) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Commercializing Serelaxin

Gbola Amusa – UBS: The mortality result on (serelaxin) was driven by cardiovascular causes and assuming you can’t comment on that, can you at least say the process that drives your decision to include or not include the CV result in your headline press release? Then lastly, I know it’s early days and you have an R&D Day upcoming, but can you comment on what benefits, if any, come from potentially commercializing serelaxin with LCZ696, your other heart failure drug?

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David Epstein – Division Head, Novartis Pharmaceuticals: Regarding serelaxin, I really don’t want to try to address any questions that might end up having me saying more than I should be saying before the data is presented at AHA or before our discussions are completed with regulatory authorities around the line. I’d just say that we are excited about the data. We think this is a great additional opportunity for our portfolio and we will share as much as possible at the R&D Day. The LCZ, as you know, that’s a product for chronic heart failure while serelaxin is for acute heart failure. Should both of them end up with good data and approval and the ability to market pulls together which we certainly drive and even better opportunity for our Company.

Short-term Productivity Improvement

Michael Leuchten – Barclays: Two please. One for Jon in terms of the comment that you made about the ongoing work on short-term productivity improvement, can you talk a little bit about cost savings versus phasing this year? Clearly some things have gone according to plan other haven’t. So how do I look at the margins in Alcon and Pharma in terms of efficiency gains and cost phasing? Second question for, David, on Galvus, I think in the past you’ve been saying it’s – you’ve been thinking that the product could make $1 billion. This year it looks like it’s not going to quite make that sort of level and the Q3 results seem to be off trend. Is there anything going on in that line? Or is it just taking a breather?

Jon Symonds – CFO: So on the first one, I mean I think we’re not dependent in productivity for any one initiative. If you think about the total portfolio, which includes maybe 100s of several 100s of projects in procurement, which are phased over in some cases two or three years, all the work we’ve been doing in manufacturing, all the work has been done on adjusting sales forces in the Pharma business I mean these are not programs that really impact any one quarter which is why we can say with a reasonable degree of confidence if they continue at a 3.5% to 4% growth and in fact, we probably done a little bit better than not this quarter so these are pretty sound and well-established programs. In Alcon, however, you’ve got the added benefit of I guess the shortest Alcon synergy programs, some of which come with the integration of the business. If you notice on Page 6 of the press release that the Alcon – sorry, it’s on Page 7, you see that Alcon has generated already $200 million of synergy benefit this quarter, some of which from the obvious things, but also joining our procurement programs, you know has really given Alcon quite a considerable boost. So there is no one item that you should be looking out for thinking about it’s a very broad program. David?

David Epstein – Division Head, Novartis Pharmaceuticals: So Galvus continues to perform very strongly somewhat up about 40% for the quarter. We’re particularly pleased with both Europe and Japan. We have not yet seen sales really out of China yet, but we will after we get reimbursement in the future. You’re right, we were hoping to be a blockbuster but (indiscernible) have gotten in the way. For this product, it was going to be a close call and it looks like (indiscernible) we have to be waiting till next year before it becomes a blockbuster.