How Credit Suisse Views Major Pharma After ASCO

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The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting is absolutely making waves in the pharmaceutical industry. As a result, analysts are giving their two cents on companies making presentations at the conference.

Credit Suisse has a few takeaways from the conference in regards to the major pharma companies that are presenting. The firm saw encouraging data from a few of the main players in the industry, but also notes that expectations were initially high going into the conference.

Bristol-Myers Squibb

At Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE: BMY), Credit Suisse sees greater potential for the Opdivo + Yervoy combo as an important strategic advantage. The potential of the Opdivo + Yervoy combination remains controversial in the eyes of many investors, but Credit Suisse was very impressed by what it saw this weekend. Most importantly, new dosing regimens of Opdivo + Yervoy seem to hold significant promise in the most important commercial indication of 1st line non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), especially in tumors that highly express PD-L1.

The firm assumes the positive data presented by Merck for the Keytruda + chemotherapy combination in 1L NSCLC may lead some to wonder if this may limit the Bristol-Myers potential in this indication, but Credit Suisse would highlight the size of the overall market and believes that a degree of exclusivity for Bristol-Myers in a large portion of the market would be a significant long-term positive.

Shares of Bristol-Myers were last seen trading up nearly 2% at $74.26 on Monday. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $76.29 and a 52-week trading range of $51.82 to $75.12.

Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) presented stunning CASTOR data that should continue to drive rapid Darzalex uptake. Perhaps the most impressive data Credit Suisse saw all weekend was from the CASTOR Study for Darzalex in multiple myeloma. The study showed a 61% reduction in the risk of disease progression or death with Darzalex in combination with Velcade and dexamethasone that increased to a 69% reduction in patients who had received just one prior line of therapy. This data should help further accelerate Darzalex’s uptake in various combinations and in earlier lines of therapy in multiple myeloma.

Shares of Johnson & Johnson were trading up 0.7% at $115.59, with a consensus price target of $117.44 and a 52-week range of $81.79 to $116.00.

Merck

According to Credit Suisse, Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) had lots of solid data, but the firm anticipated limited impact on overall expectations. This company released a series of generally positive data sets highlighting the potential of Keytruda both as monotherapy and in combination therapies across a broad range of tumor types, including three new ones (cervical, salivary gland and thyroid).

With Keytruda now showing positive activity in more than 20 tumor types, the longer-term potential for this product (and MRK’s overall I-O portfolio) is likely greater than what is currently in street estimates, but questions also likely will remain on where MRK’s I-O revenues will exactly come from in the near to mid term.

The most discussed Merck data from an investor perspective is likely the positive KEYNOTE-021 data for Keytruda + chemo in 1L NSCLC, but Credit Suisse believes added optimism for PD-1/PD-L1 + chemo likely will mean credit being given to competitors such as Roche and Eli Lilly as opposed to Merck directly.

Merck shares last trading up 1% at $57.19 on Monday. The consensus price target is $61.55, and the 52-week range is $45.69 to $60.07.

AbbVie

Rova-T, from AbbVie Inc. (NYSE: ABBV), shows promise, but maybe not enough to match elevated expectations. Rova-T’s data in advanced small cell lung cancer (SCLC) was impressive to Credit Suisse, and while early, suggests activity of Rova-T in this indication, particular for DLL3 high expressers. The responses were slightly lower than what was shown in the ESMO 2015 presentation but we are still optimistic, especially given the lack of approved agents in the third-line SCLC setting.

Given the outperformance Credit Suisse has seen with AbbVie’s stock since the Stemcentryx deal was announced, however, the firm believes investors may be underwhelmed by the full data set. A key question to monitor is the longer term benefit and the impact on overall survival from the drug.

Shares of AbbVie were trading down 4.5% at $62.10, with a consensus price target of $71.06 and a 52-week range of $45.45 to $71.60.

Eli Lilly

Questions remain here on tolerability and regulatory pathway for abemaciclib following full MONARCH-1 data. Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) has underperformed since the ASCO abstracts were released, in part because of the data in the MONARCH-1 abstract, but Credit Suisse believes it could see some further weakness in Eli Lilly now that the full data is available. This past weekend, the firm highlighted that it thought the MONARCH-1 data for abemaciclib was encouraging.

However, the firm does still have some questions surrounding the mPFS not reaching the pre-specified lower bound of the confidence interval and the relatively high rates of diarrhea, as well as where abemaciclib ultimately will fit into the increasingly competitive CDK4/6 space.

Eli Lilly was last seen at $74.67 a share, with a consensus price target of $95.71 and a 52-week range of $67.88 to $92.85.