AstraZeneca feels pain as sales slump continues

First quarter results from AstraZeneca have disappointed investors, sending shares down on the London Stock Exchange, as the UK firm continued to feel the effects of patent losses on key drugs.

Under the leadership of CEO Pascal Soriot, the company is trying to turn its fortunes around with a new generation of drugs in areas such as cancer and respiratory medicine.

But the sales generated by these newly approved medicines have not made up for the sliding revenues from its former blockbuster cholesterol drug Crestor (rosuvastatin), which is now off-patent in key markets.

Sales of Crestor fell 38% to $389 million compared with last year’s Q1.

And although AZ does have a rising star with its Tagrisso (osimertinib) lung cancer drug with sales of $338m – almost double the amount posted in the last Q1 – the company is still on a downward trajectory in terms of total revenue, which fell 4% just under $5.2 billion.

Externalisation revenue – raised by flogging older drugs to other pharma companies – was also lower than in Q1 last year, down by 66% to $193 million.

In the future, AZ is also looking towards its checkpoint inhibitor cancer drug Imfinzi (durvalumab) and respiratory drug Fasenra (benralizumab).

Soriot talked up the company’s performance in China, where sales were up 31% to more than $1 billion, and said the pain from Crestor patent losses would begin to ease in the second half.

AZ’s Pascal Soriot

He said: “The headwinds that we are experiencing from patient expiries will be very much behind us by the end of the year.”

Despite Soriot’s upbeat comments, shares were down more than 2$ on the London Stock Exchange following the announcement.

But there are still concerns over Imfinzi – AZ is waiting for further data from the MYSTIC trial testing it in combination with a CTL4 drug tremelimumab in first-line lung cancer.

The drug failed to extend progression-free survival in initial results in the indication announced last year, and the company has said it expects overall survival results in the second half of the year.

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