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AZ says target of $45bn sales by 2023 still achievable

Q3 revenues topped analyst expectations

Pascal Soriot

AstraZeneca is looking at several years of sustained growth that keeps it on track to meet a four-year-old pledge to achieve $45bn in sales by 2023, according to chief executive Pascal Soriot (pictured above).

The plan, first announced when AZ was fending off an unwanted takeover bid by Pfizer, has often looked overly ambitious in the intervening years as it suffered patent losses on big-selling products. Today however Soriot told reporters on a conference call that – with the company posting its first quarter of sustainable sales growth since 2014 – the target is on track.

The job of rebuilding AZ’s pipeline and selling off non-core products is largely complete, and the company is now in the process of turning its new growth products, including a stable of cancer therapies, into commercial successes, he continued. There’s also no major patent expiries to be concerned about for six years or so.

Soriot’s comments came as AZ posted a 14% decrease in sales for the third quarter to $5.34bn, which wasn’t unexpected as the company hasn’t been boosting its top line through asset sales as much as last year. The underlying picture is strong, however, with new medicines like Tagrisso, Imfinzi, Lynparza in cancer, Farxiga in diabetes and Fasenra in severe asthma growing 19% in the first nine months of the year to add $1.8bn in incremental sales compared to the same period of 2017.

“This is a major milestone for us, and it’s the evidence of how our focus on science has delivered,” said Soriot, noting that with new cancer, cardiovascular, renal and metabolism (CVRM), and respiratory drugs now making up 70% of its product portfolio “the headwinds are becoming smaller.” A concerted push into China is also reaping dividends with sales up 27% in that market

The cancer franchise was once again a standout, particularly Tagrisso (osimertinib) for EGFR-mutated non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) which grew 91% year-to-date and is now hitting the $2bn mark in annualised sales. Lynparza (olaparib) for ovarian and breast cancer more than doubled to $438m, while a new lung cancer indication transformed immuno-oncology drug Imfinzi (durvalumab) pushing sales to $371m.

In respiratory, interleukin-5 inhibitor Fasenra (benralizumab) – which came to market after rival drugs from GlaxoSmithKline and Teva - is doing “extremely well”, said Soriot, capturing the lion’s share of new patient prescriptions in the US and Germany and topping all biologics for asthma on that measure in Japan.

AZ’s CEO also highlighted diabetes therapy Farxiga (dapagliflozin), which grew by a third to $994m in the nine-month period despite a tough competitive environment. The product has new cardiovascular outcomes data from the DECLARE-TIMI 58 trial – a must-have for diabetes therapies now – which is due for presentation at the American Heart Association (AHA) meeting this weekend.

The study showed Farxiga cut hospitalisations for heart failure and cardiovascular death in a broad patient population, although it missed a secondary endpoint on major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE). It will be followed by additional studies in patients with heart failure (DAPA-HF and DELIVER) that will read out from 2020.

The third-quarter revenues topped analyst expectations, and shares in AZ were up just over 1% in mid-morning trading today. The company is forecasting low single-digit sales growth for the full-year.

“Commercial execution has been exceptional and our new medicines are now firmly established as the drivers of growth, supporting our continued success in emerging markets,” said Soriot.

Article by
Phil Taylor

8th November 2018

From: Sales

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