GSK posts strong 2021 as split countdown begins


Emma Walmsley, CEO of GSK/courtesy Fang Zhe/Xinhua via Getty Images

GlaxoSmithKline closed 2021 with £36 billion in revenue (about $46 billion), a strong financial position as the company heads towards the spin-off of its pharmaceuticals and consumer health businesses later this year.

As GSK enters the new year, chief executive Emma Walmsley has predicted that 2022 will be a “historic year” for the company. The next 11 months of the year should bring a step change in growth with multiple R&D catalysts, as well as milestones on seven key late-stage pipeline assets.

In his fourth quarter and year-end report, GSK noted that sales were driven by its pharmaceuticals business, which generated £17.7 billion (around $23.95), and its vaccines business, which contributed £6.8 billion ( about $9.25). The consumer healthcare sector generated an additional £9.6 billion, or around $12.99 billion. Walmsley touted the year-end results, saying they aligned with the company’s strategic priorities as it nears the companies’ spin-off.

“2021 has been a year of excellent progress across all three strands of our strategic priorities,” Walmsley said on a call with analysts and reporters.

A drug that drove sales in the fourth quarter and is expected to reach blockbuster status this year is the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab, which has received United States Emergency Use Authorization Food and drug administration in May. Marketed under the brand name Xevudy, GSK estimated the drug would reach around £1.4 billion in sales for 2022. Xevudy, which was co-developed with Vir Biotechnologyis the only monoclonal antibody that remains in use in the United States due to the rise of the Omicron variant, which has diminished the effectiveness of other monoclonal antibodies in use.

Trelegy and Nucala are two drugs that have boosted financial sales this year by surpassing blockbuster status by $1 billion in annual revenue. Trelegy generated £1.2 billion and Nucala brought in £1.14 billion. Commercial Director Luke Miels touted the successes of these drugs, as well as Xevudy.

Other highlights for GSK in 2021 include the Approval of Apretude by the FDA (cabotegavir), a long-acting injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) option to reduce the risk of sexual transmission of HIV-1. Apretude was co-developed with ViiV Health and greenlit for use in December. Another key approval in 2021 was the oncology drug Jemperli. The FDA approved Jemperli, a checkpoint inhibitor, in April for endometrial cancer. Jemperli is one of the few anti-PD1 drugs approved for this indication.

As the company enters the new year and nears the spin-off, GSK intends to build on these milestones. “2022 is the biggest change in recent GSK history,” Walmsley said. “We are now in full countdown mode to the split.”

Looking to the future, the company is touting a strong portfolio of 21 vaccines and 43 drugs, many of which offer potential better or first-class opportunities for patients. Of these, 22 are in pivotal clinical trials. The company plans to seek regulatory approval for daprodustat in anemia due to chronic kidney disease in the United States and the European Union in the first half of 2022. Milestones are expected for approximately seven of the 11 new vaccines that GSK is developing, including a vaccine for elderly people with the RSV.

In June, Walmsley described the proposed split of the two activities of GSK. She predicted that the standalone pharma business should generate approximately $46 billion in revenue by 2031 and steady double-digit growth in operating profit over the next five years. New GSK is expected to be a growth company fueled by the development of new vaccines and specialty drugs. The pharmaceutical business will focus on four main therapeutic areas: infectious diseases, HIV, oncology and immunology/respiratory.

When the pharmaceuticals business becomes a stand-alone entity, the company expects sales growth of 5-7% in 2022 and operating profit of between 12-14%.

Walmsley said she intended to showcase the future growth ambitions and very attractive financial profile of the consumer healthcare business at the company’s capital markets events later this month.


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