Roche's 2021 test sales collect on COVID demand, base business rebound

While last year saw a wave of COVID-19 test sales crest as routine diagnostics began to rebound, companies are now cashing in on both sides of the coin.

Roche’s diagnostics division saw strong revenue growth across 2021, as the spread of the coronavirus’ delta and omicron variants in the latter half of the year once again boosted global demand for testing. At the same time, the company’s base business demonstrated strong momentum compared to 2020.

Combined, Roche said its testing sales grew 29% to 17.8 billion Swiss francs, or about $19.4 billion U.S., with COVID-19 diagnostics accounting for about a quarter of the year’s total. The company’s non-pandemic sales, meanwhile, grew 16% over 2020.

RELATED: Roche ties the knot with longtime testmaking partner TIB Molbiol after COVID successes

A further breakdown saw a dramatic rise in point-of-care testing sales in the second year of the pandemic, more than doubling from about 1.1 billion francs ($1.2 billion) to 2.6 billion francs ($2.8 billion).

While the category also includes rapid blood gas and electrolyte tests for emergency rooms and hospitals, the division’s main growth driver was its COVID-19 antigen test being sold in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Meanwhile, centralized lab test sales increased by 21%, with major contributions coming from cardiovascular, infectious disease and immunodiagnostic tests. Molecular and PCR diagnostic revenues grew 29%, led by Roche’s virology business. Diabetes test sales mostly held steady, while tissue biopsies, companion diagnostics and other pathology products gained 12%.

RELATED: JPM 2022: Roche launches smart, hand-held glucose meter for the hospital bedside

Going forward, Roche expects 2022 sales of its COVID-19 diagnostics and medicines to drop by about 2 billion to 5 billion francs, while the company’s overall revenues will remain stable or grow in the low single digits.

That could be driven in part by sales of the company’s new, more-compact analyzer hardware, aimed at fulfilling the needs of smaller European testing labs. The cobas 5800 gained a CE mark late last year, providing the ability to process 20 to 150 samples per day with a smaller footprint relative to its high-throughput siblings, the cobas 6800 and 8800.

Recent months also saw Roche gain green lights for its hand-held glucose meter designed for hospital use, the cobas pulse, as well as for additional diagnostics for COVID-19, including a rapid, over-the-counter test authorized by the FDA.

The company also acquired its long-time testmaking partner, TIB Molbiol, which launched a handful of research tests aimed at the coronavirus and its omicron variant late last year.