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Oncology drives AstraZeneca, Genzyme boosts Sanofi

Specialist drugs are growth engines in Q1


AstraZeneca has announced 14% sales growth in Q1, marking its third successive quarter of rising sales.

The UK drugmaker is crediting the leap to its cancer drugs portfolio, with Tagrisso, Lynparza and Imfinizi helping global oncology sales rise by 54%.

Third generation EGFR inhibitor Tagrisso is now the company’s top-selling drug, bringing in sales of $630m in the first quarter, almost double what the lung cancer drug made during the same period last year.

This was driven by the 2018 regulatory approvals that saw the drug take a first-line setting in those with EGFR-mutated non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Its Merck & Co-partnered PARP inhibitor Lynparza, which has approvals in both ovarian and breast cancers, is also doing well, with sales increasing by 105% to $237m. This was due to its expanded use in ovarian and breast cancer, including a particularly strong launch in the US as a first line ovarian cancer treatment

Meanwhile Imfinzi, now AZ’s second best-seller, brought in sales of $295m for the quarter, growing by 376%, which was a result of ongoing launches for the treatment of those with unresectable, Stage 3 NSCLC.

AZ confirmed it will continue to drive oncology advancements, citing its recent partnership with Japan-based pharma group Daiichi Sankyo.

Soriot adds: “The recently-announced collaboration with Daiichi Sankyo also broadened an exciting oncology portfolio with a potentially-transformative cancer treatment that could benefit patients around the world.”

Meanwhile, Sanofi released its Q1 results, and its growth beat expectations, driven in part by its rare disease arm Genzyme.

In total, Genzyme delivered a 31% sales increase, which was helped by its monoclonal antibody Dupixent. It recently added a new approval in moderate-to-severe asthma that is expected to be a $7.5bn product at peak.

Analysts at Jefferies added that Sanofi’s pipeline “offers intriguing optionality, overlooked by many, and we see steady future margin expansion”.

The France-based drugmaker reported net sales of €8,391m for the first quarter, an increase of 6.2%, which was also fuelled in part by its vaccines division Sanofi Pasteur.

Those sales were up by 20.1%, reflecting the recovery and growth of its Pentaxim vaccine in China, along with meningitis vaccine Menactra’s growth in emerging markets.

Sanofi's chief executive Olivier Brandicourt, said: "I am pleased with the strong start in 2019 as we sustained our new growth phase and delivered business EPS growth of 9.4%. We executed on key launches in Specialty Care led by the impressive uptake of Dupixent in atopic dermatitis and asthma and also delivered strong growth in Vaccines.

“At the same time, our new GBU structure enabled us to optimise our growth opportunity in China & Emerging Markets and to adapt to the pressures in Primary Care. Based on our performance in the first quarter, we remain confident in the growth outlook for our business over the rest of the year despite challenging industry dynamics."

Article by
Gemma Jones

26th April 2019



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