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Embattled Astra sees profits fall


Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has unveiled a fall in first-quarter profits as its best-selling drugs came under pressure from generic rivals.

The group said sales of ulcer treatment Nexium had fallen 9% to £623m, before adding that it expects a “single digit” sales decline in the product this year.

The group, which recently settled a patent dispute with an Indian firm over Nexium, also wrote off £130.1m over a potential generic threat to cancer treatment Ethyol.

Overall pre-tax profits slipped 15% to £1.08bn, lower than expected by the City.

Shares fell almost 5% on the back of the results.

Astra also booked a further £59.2m in costs from its restructuring plans announced last summer, under which it aims to axe 7,600 jobs worldwide.

Chief executive David Brennan pointed to a “growing pipeline” of new medicines – with three regulatory filings due this year – and insisted the firm is on track to meet its full-year targets.

But other Astra products under pressure from generic copies include angina drug Toprol-XL, where sales slumped 60% to £96.1m.

The group said the fall in revenues had been offset by the inclusion of sales from vaccines business MedImmune, which it bought last year.

Copyright © PA Business 2008


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