AstraZeneca is moving into a peak period for patent expiries, with latest casualties including breast cancer drug Arimidex in the US, sales of which fell 80 per cent in the country, and heartburn treatment Nexium in Germany.
Many drugmakers around the world are facing rising competition from cut-price generics but AstraZeneca’s patent cliff is particularly steep. Chief executive David Brennan said it had been a “challenging” quarter in the US, where sales tumbled 13 per cent, although emerging markets were a bright spot.
In addition to loss of patent protection on Arimidex, US sales were also hit by increased generic competition to asthma treatment Pulmicort Respules and heart drug Toprol-XL.
The Anglo-Swedish company had already warned the second half of 2010 would be tougher but, based on the solid performance so far this year, it now expects full-year earnings to be at the upper end of the previously indicated range.
AstraZeneca’s “core” pre-tax profit, excluding certain restructuring costs and charges, fell 10 per cent in the quarter to $3.1bn (£1.9bn), equivalent to earnings per share of $1.50, on sales down four per cent at $7.9bn.