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AZ CEO says company’s renaissance is on track

Soriot insists AZ’s strategy is working and will continue

AZ

Rising sales of new cancer drug Tagrisso, a lower impact from patent losses and strong performance in emerging markets show that AstraZeneca’s turnaround plan is on course, according to its chief executive.

Pascal Soriot made the comments as AZ reported a 3% reduction in third-quarter sales to $4.9bn - its lowest rate of decline this year - on a “reduced impact” from declines for cholesterol drug Crestor (rosuvastatin) and antipsychotic Seroquel XR (quetiapine).

Gains for lung cancer therapy Tagrisso (osimertinib) - up 86% to $248m in the quarter - plus a $997m payment from MSD related to AZ’s licensing deal for ovarian cancer medicine Lynparza (olaparib) helped overall revenues rise 9% to $6.2bn, slightly above analyst expectations.

Revenues from this externalisation strategy, in which AZ sells of rights to drug candidates outside its increasingly tight core focus, accounted for more than 20% of its total turnover. Some analysts are nervous about the strategy, saying it is akin to selling off the family silver particularly when - as with the Lynparza deal - it strays into core areas such as cancer.

Soriot however insists the strategy is working and will continue. “The new strategic collaboration with MSD offers significant opportunities to maximise the potential of Lynparza,” he asserted during the company’s third-quarter results call.

AZ’s deal with MSD for Lynparza was signed in July and includes up to $750m in licence options and a maximum of $6.15bn in regulatory and sales milestones. Lynparza sales rose 40% to $81m in the quarter.

Other pillars of the CEO’s plans for AZ delivered as hoped, with antiplatelet drug Brilinta (ticagrelor) rising 37% to $284m, although clinical setbacks last year have pegged back its peak sales expectations. Sales in emerging markets - led by China - rose 9% to $1.52bn.

Soriot also pointed to a turnaround in AZ’s R&D pipeline, pointing to approvals of four new medicines this year - including BTK inhibitor Calquence (acalabrutinib) - and “positive developments” for Tagrisso and PD-L1 inhibitor Imfinzi (durvalumab) in lung cancer as well as for benralizumab and tezepelumab in asthma.  Imfinzi brought in just $1m in sales however since its launch in the US on May 1

The R&D gains offset the “disappointment of the first readout from the MYSTIC trial” of Imfinzi and AZ’s CTLA4 inhibitor tremelimumab in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), he said.

Article by
Phil Taylor

10th November 2017

From: Sales

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