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Regeneron profit boosted by Eylea, raises drug's forecast again

(Reuters) - Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc reported third-quarter earnings that blew past Wall Street expectations on strong growth in its eye drug Eylea, whose sales projections the company raised for the fourth time this year.

The biotechnology company now expects full-year Eylea sales of between $790 million and $815 million in the United States, above the $700 million to $750 million it forecast in late-July, and nearly five times the initial forecast it made in January.

Shares of the New York-based company were up 5 percent in trading before the bell, after closing at $152.99 on the Nasdaq on Tuesday.

"With the recent approval of Eylea for (an additional use) and the anticipated launch beginning by the end of this year in Japan, Australia, and Europe, we expect Eylea to continue to drive growth through 2013 and beyond," Regeneron Chief Executive Leonard Schleifer said.

Eylea was approved last November to treat wet age-related macular degeneration of the eye, or damage to the macula - the central region of the retina. Wet age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly.

The drug was also approved in late-September to treat thickening of the macula that may follow a central retinal vein occlusion, or a blockage in the veins that carry blood away from the eye.

Regeneron will receive about half of the profit from Eylea sales outside the United States, where the drug is being marketed by Germany's Bayer Ag.

Eylea could also benefit from the recent meningitis outbreak in the United States that may reduce off-label usage of Roche Holding AG's cancer drug Avastin, which along with the Swiss drugmaker's Lucentis, competes with the Regeneron drug.

Avastin is one of the drugs compounded at the New England Compounding Center (NECC), the Boston-area pharmacy whose steroid shot were linked to several meningitis deaths.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Jim Birchenough said in a note on Monday that the perceived risk of using compounded Avastin and the increase in regulatory scrutiny could limit the drug's bulk distribution.

EYLEA DRIVES PROFIT

Third-quarter Eylea sales rose about 26 percent over the previous quarter to $244 million.

Regeneron's total revenue rose more than four-fold to $427.7 million from a year earlier.

The company recorded a $50 million milestone payment from partner Sanofi SA related to the August approval of their colorectal cancer drug, Zaltrap. The drug recorded sales of $8 million in the third quarter.

Analysts expected revenue of $349.2 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company reported a net profit of $191.5 million in the period, or $1.72 per share, compared with a loss of $62.4 million, or 68 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts were expecting earnings of 95 cents per share.

(Reporting By Pallavi Ail in Bangalore; Editing by Supriya Kurane)

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