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AZ revenues down 18 per cent on generic competition, divestments

Hit by patent losses for Seroquel and Arimidex

Second-quarter revenues at AstraZeneca fell 18 per cent to $6.7bn as the loss of patent protection on some of its most lucrative products continued to bite.

Generic competition to schizophrenia and bipolar depression treatment Seroquel (quetiapine) and breast cancer drug Arimidex (anastrozole) accounted for the bulk of the decline. The Seroquel franchise saw sales decline 57 per cent to $647m from $1.54bn a year earlier, while Arimidex fell 16 per cent to $147m.

"Products with loss of exclusivity accounted for 15 percentage points of our … decline in second quarter revenue in constant currency terms," interim chief executive Simon Lowth told analysts yesterday.

Meanwhile, other key products were also affected by headwinds. Gastrointestinal drug Nexium (esomeprazole) – another product facing patent expiration - shrank 13 per cent to $949m. Cholesterol-lowerer Crestor (rosuvastatin) brought in $1.59bn, a drop of 5 per cent year-on-year, although Lowth said the latter was a "resilient performance" in the face of its loss of patent protection in Canada and Brazil and competition from generic versions of other statins.

The divestments of dental implant company Astra Tech and outpatient cancer chain Aptium added another 2.4 per cent to the fall, he noted, while supply chain problems at a facility in Sweden also had an impact.

AZ joined GlaxoSmithKline, which reported results earlier this week, in blaming downward pricing pressures in the Eurozone and other markets.

"Government interventions in the marketplace continue to take their toll," said Lowth, noting that these resulted in AZ losing around $300m from its top line in the second quarter. "We clearly need to see pricing that, over the midterm, properly rewards innovation, [and] properly rewards value in our medicines," he added.

The overall impact of the pressure on revenues was a decline in operating profit of 27 per cent to $2.3bn, although there were bright spots in the second-quarter numbers.

Diabetes treatment Onglyza (saxagliptin), partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb, gained 72 per cent to reach $79m, while breast cancer drug Faslodex (fulvestrant) sales came in at $161m, up 24 per cent.

Antiplatelet drug Brilinta/Brilique (ticagrelor) - launched last summer - continued its slow but steady rise with $18m in second-quarter sales.

AZ's executive vice president for global commercial, Tony Zook, noted that ticagrelor was gaining momentum in Europe following pricing approvals in Germany and France, but acknowledged that it had got off to a slow start in the US as it has to compete there with generics of Sanofi's big-selling Plavix (clopidogrel) product.

AZ is forecasting a low to mid-teens decline in revenues for 2012 as a whole at constant exchange rates, and a low-double-digit fall in operating come compared to 2011.

27th July 2012

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