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Strong Tagrisso soothes AZ as US sales plummet

Sales decline 34% in the US due to low-cost copies of Crestor


Strong sales of new lung cancer drug Tagrisso proved a balm to AstraZeneca in the first quarter, as generic competition cut away a third of its US sales.

Buoyant uptake for Tagrisso (osimertinib) in the US and EU saw the drug reach $171m in sales, up from $51m a year ago, to become AZ's third-biggest cancer drug.

Tagrisso has just recently seen its conditional approvals in the US and EU for second-line non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treatment converted to full approval, and is due to get a read-out in its first-line NSCLC trial later this year - which analysts suggest could help drive sales to around $2bn a year. It also picked up new second-line approvals in Brazil, Hong Kong and Taiwan during the first quarter.

AZ needs Tagrisso and other growth-phase drugs such as ovarian cancer therapy Lynparza (olaparib) - which rose 30% to $57m in the quarter - to help offset dramatic declines in mature products that have lost patent protection. That impact was felt particularly strongly in the US, where sales declined 34% to $1.49bn thanks largely to the launch of low-cost copies of cholesterol drug Crestor (rosuvastatin) in the latter half of 2016.

Overall, AZ reported a 12% decrease in group revenues to $5.4bn in the first quarter, which was in line with analyst expectations, and the company said it is confident that the big year-on-year declines will start to recede in the second half of this year and into 2018.

AZ has been selling off older and non-core assets left and right as it pushes the accelerator on its R&D pipeline, and says it is entering a particularly productive period that could see six new drugs launched for cancer alone between 2014 and 2020 - including Lynparza and Tagrisso.

AZ is playing catch-up in the immuno-oncology sector, but lead candidate durvalumab - a PD-L1 inhibitor - is under regulatory review as a second-line therapy for patients with locally-advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC), with an FDA verdict due in the second quarter of this year.

It is also expecting phase III results from a combination trial of durvalumab with CTLA-4 inhibitor tremelimumab in third-line NSCLC in the second half of the year, with data readout from a first line combination trial due in 2018. Results from a study of durvalumab plus tremelimumab in first-line head and neck cancer are also expected before the end of 2017.

Meanwhile in its targeted oncology portfolio AZ is also expecting to file BTK inhibitor acalabrutinib for B-cell malignancies later this year, with MEK inhibitor selumetinib for thyroid cancer and   moxetumomab pasudotox for hairy cell leukaemia due for first regulatory submissions in 2018.

Commenting on the first-quarter performance, AZ's chief executive Pascal Soriot said: "The pipeline continued to deliver in what we expect will be a pivotal year for AZ as we announced important developments, in particular in oncology."

"Importantly, we anticipate the significant progress of the pipeline to continue, including our immuno-oncology and targeted treatments," he added.

Article by
Phil Taylor

28th April 2017

From: Sales



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