Generic rivals knock sales at AstraZeneca

City A.M. Reporter
GENERIC competition and pricing pressures weighed on AstraZeneca’s sales in the third quarter, ahead of a key challenge to its top-selling cholesterol drug Crestor in the US marketplace, it said yesterday.

A weaker dollar provided a prop to Britain’s second-biggest drugmaker, with sales at the reported level up four per cent at $8.21bn (£5.8bn), while in local currencies they fell two per cent. The result was slightly better than expected.

The company also said it had raised its full-year target for core earnings per share, which excludes some items, to between $7.20 and $7.40, from $7.05 to $7.35, largely on currency movements.

A one-off gain from the $1.8bn sale of dental and surgical unit Astra Tech to Dentsply was excluded from core results, which saw pre-tax profit flat at $3.08bn in the quarter, equivalent to EPS up 14 per cent.

Chief executive David Brennan said the results, against a tough backdrop, were in line with the group’s own expectations.

AstraZeneca faces a major challenge to Crestor from the end of next month, when generic copies of Pfizer’s market-leading cholesterol pill Lipitor are due to hit the US market.

Results from a head-to-head study last month failed to show Crestor was better than Lipitor in reducing clogging in coronary arteries.

Finance chief Simon Lowth acknowledged that generic Lipitor would limit Crestor’s pricing power but argued it would still have a strong position for treating higher-risk heart patients.

For now, Crestor is selling well -- its sales rose 14 per cent to $1.66bn in the quarter -- but investors fear it could lose momentum just as revenue from other blockbusters such as heartburn pill Nexium is also falling.

AstraZeneca’s London-listed shares closed up 1.3 per cent yesterday.