GSK profit beats on Shingrix, demand for pain meds during pandemicGSK profit beats on Shingrix, demand for pain meds during pandemic
FILE PHOTO: A GSK logo is seen at the GSK research centre in Stevenage

(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline’s <GSK.L> first-quarter profit beat analysts’ expectations on Wednesday due to strong demand for its blockbuster shingles vaccine and higher sales of some of its pain relief medicines during the coronavirus pandemic.

Like its rival AstraZeneca <AZN.L>, the British drugmaker stuck to its 2020 forecast and still expects a 1% to 4% fall in profit for the year.

Turnover rose 19% to 9.09 billion pounds ($11.26 billion) in the three months ended March 31 from a year earlier, while adjusted earnings were 37.7 pence per share.

Shingrix sales came in at 647 million pounds, beating consensus estimate by 23%, while consumer health business brought in 2.86 billion pounds, ahead of estimates of 2.78 billion pounds.

Analysts on average expected first-quarter adjusted earnings of 31.5 pence per share and sales of 8.75 billion pounds, according to a company-compiled consensus of 13 analysts.

In the race to develop a vaccine to end the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, charities and Big Pharma firms are sinking billions of dollars into bets with extraordinarily low odds of success.

GSK and Sanofi <SASY.PA> have struck a deal to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, with trials expected to start in the second half of this year. GSK has also tied up with AstraZeneca <AZN.L> and Cambridge University to set up a COVID-19 testing lab.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka, Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru and Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Supriya Kurane)