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Income up for Roche despite dip in sales

Swiss firm looks to new products and purchase of Illumina to compensate for revenue decline

Roche's net income rose 7 per cent last year to 9.54bn Swiss francs, despite a decline of 10 per cent in the pharma company's sales, which fell to 42.53bn Swiss francs.

The Swiss pharma firm was able to make savings through reductions in its workforce to compensate for falling sales of products such as its pandemic flu drug, Tamiflu, and Avastin, which lost its US licence to treat advanced breast cancer in late 2011.

The company expects revenues to pick up again next year, however, with hopes pinned on a series of new drugs in development as well as the planned $5.7bn acquisition of US-based genetics firm Illumina.

Roche CEO Severin Schwan said: “With 17 positive late-stage clinical trials in 2011, we continue to build our future business with innovative products.”

The Illumina purchase would also boost Roche's presence in the market for gene sequencing and lead to the discovery of complex biomarkers for both research and clinical use, according to Schwan.

Based on such developments, the company said it expects "low to mid-single-digit sales growth" at constant exchange rates, with pharma sales growth to be driven by the strength of its established product portfolio as well as planned new product launches.

Products expected to help drive such growth include skin cancer treatment Zelboraf (vemurafenib), which received a recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in December 2011.

In the same month, Roche filed EU and US marketing applications for pertuzumab for HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer, with the drug demonstrating positive results in extending progression free survival when combined with Herceptin and chemotherapy.

Most recently, the company received good news regarding basal cell carcinoma treatment Erivedge (vismodegib), with the drug gaining approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January 2012, two months ahead of the agency's deadline.

Sales of Avastin should also pick up, after the drug received European approval as a front-line therapy, after surgery, for women with newly-diagnosed ovarian cancer.

2nd February 2012

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