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Emerging markets shine for AstraZeneca

Published on 06/11/08 at 03:39pm

AstraZeneca saw overall sales for the three months to September rise 3% to $7.8 billion.

But growth in emerging markets was the highlight of its third quarter results, up 18% to $1.1 billion with sales in China up 35%.

Group pre-tax profit was up 22% to $2.4 billion, performance which led AstraZeneca to raise estimates of full-year earnings per share to $4.90-$5.05.

The pharma group had predicted figures of $4.60-$4.90 just three months ago.

Chief executive David Brennan said: "We continue to make good progress on reshaping our cost base, including advancing innovation in our research and development activities with greater productivity and efficiency."

The company paid out $117 million in the third quarter in restructuring costs.

Half of total group revenues are from the US, although a decline in sales of Toprol-XL meant US third quarter sales overall were flat year on year.

The beta blocker's sales were down $141 million in the teeth of generic competition although AstraZeneca says that 5% growth in US sales of other products cancelled out the loss.

AstraZeneca's biggest seller, anti-ulcer drug Nexium, continues its decline with the company anticipating a "mid-single digit" drop in worldwide sales for the full year.

The third quarter saw sales dip to $779 million in the US, 8% down on last year, a result of competition and lower prices.

Over the first nine months of 2008, US sales of the drug fell even further - down 12%.

But Nexium sales in other markets in the third quarter were up 11% to $536 million and 8% for the year to September.

Sales of statin Crestor in the US were up 23% in the third quarter fuelled in part by its atherosclerosis indication.

Crestor prescriptions increased by 12.3% compared with third quarter 2007, nearly three times the market rate.

Quarter three sales in the rest of the world were up 33% to $502 million.

US sales of the drug for the nine months increased 14% to $1.1 billion, while in the rest of the world they were up 34% to $1.4 billion.

In the US, antipsychotic Seroquel was down 1% to $749 million in the third quarter year-on-year, although it remains the market leader with a prescription share of 31.7%.

The brand's sales in other markets increased by 18% to $381 million in the third quarter, with sales in Western Europe up 20%.

AstraZeneca has also announced that John Patterson, the company's executive director of development will retire next March.

Anders Ekblom, currently vice president and head of global clinical development, will replace him.

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