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New drugs and emerging markets power AstraZeneca's Q1 growth

AstraZeneca hailed a strong performance from new medicines such as lung cancer drug Tagrisso after reporting significant product sales growth for the first quarter of 2019.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

It secured sales of $5.465billion in the period - up 10 per cent or 14 per cent on a constant exchange rate (CER) basis.

Sales of new medicines were up 83 per cent, oncology sales grew 59 per cent and new cardiovascular, renal and metabolism sales rose 19 per cent, driven by its asthma medicine Fasenra, on a CER basis.

There was growth in China (28 per cent at CER), the US (20 per cent) and Japan (26 per cent), although European sales fell by six per cent.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said: “Our 14 per cent product sales growth in the quarter reflected the success of our new medicines and emerging markets.

“In oncology, Tagrisso, Imfinzi and Lynparza continued to do well and, in biopharma, Farxiga, Brilinta and Fasenra also grew strongly.”

Tagrisso became AstraZeneca’s biggest-selling medicine during the quarter, with sales of $630m, up 92 per cent at CER.

AstraZeneca's new global HQ and R&D centre. (9294760)
AstraZeneca's new global HQ and R&D centre. (9294760)

There were sales of $295 from immunotherapy drug Iminzi up 381 per cent at CER, thanks to launches of the product for patients with certain lung cancers. And Lynparza sales were $237million, up 105 per cent at CER, due to expanded use in the treatment of ovarian and breast cancer.

Mr Soriot went on: “Emerging markets, our largest sales region, delivered an outstanding performance with a 22 per cent growth rate; all of its sub-regions grew strongly, including China at 28 per cent.

“Our core operating profit almost doubled, demonstrating strong operating-margin improvement. Together with this encouraging financial start to the year, our highly-productive and sustainable pipeline continued to deliver, notably with a regulatory approval for Lynparza in the EU for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer and approvals of Farxigain type-1 diabetes.”

Referring to a partnership on Trastuzumab deruxtecan, an innovative antibody-drug conjugate, he added: “The recently-announced collaboration with Daiichi Sankyo also broadened an exciting oncology portfolio with a potentially-transformative cancer treatment that could benefit patients around the world.”

Dr Mene Pangalos of, AstraZeneca. Picture: AstraZeneca / Marcus Lyon
Dr Mene Pangalos of, AstraZeneca. Picture: AstraZeneca / Marcus Lyon

Speaking on an earnings call, Dr Mene Pangalos, EVP, research and development biopharmaceuticals, pointed to the company’s scientific progress, pointing out that the number of accepted high-impact publications had increased tenfold to more than 100 in 2018, while the number of phase II projects had increased by a third and there were more than 50 regulatory designations in major markets.

“I'm very proud of what we achieved in 2018,” said Dr Panaglos. “It was a record-breaking year with both new molecular entities and major life-cycle programs, seeing 23 major market approvals in total, the most ever attained in one year in AstraZeneca's 20-year history.”

Mr Soriot told analysts: “We promised a return to sales growth in 2018. We delivered. We're now on the next journey of sustained sales growth in 2019 and beyond.”

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