AstraZeneca hit by patent expiries as sales slump

 

Drugmaker AstraZeneca has showed it is still languishing in intensive care after patent expiries triggered an 8 per per cent fall in sales to $25.7

Despite new chief executive Pascal Soriot’s recent string of acquisitions to boost Astra’s pipeline, the pharmaceuticals giant admitted that it expects revenues to fall again this year by “a low-to-mid-single-digit percentage”.

Astra is suffering from blockbuster drugs, including cholesterol-buster Crestor and heartburn and ulcer treatment Nexium, facing cheaper, generic competition in Australia and Europe respectively.

Those patent expiries, as well as the cost of acquisitions, including spending up to $4.1 billion buying out rival Bristol-Myers Squibb’s stake in a diabetes-medicine development venture, saw Astra’s pre-tax profit crash 57 per cent to $3.3 billion in 2013.

In the crucial United States market, Astra’s revenues fell 7 per cent in the last three months of 2013, while in Europe, where treatments including anti-psychotic drug Seroquel IR dropped out of patent, sales lost 2 per cent in the same period.

The US picture is set to worsen this year: from May, Nexium will face generic competition. Astra admitted that US healthcare reforms, which force drugmakers to pay annual fees, had cost $318 million in the fourth quarter.

Soriot, who has cut Astra’s headcount by more than 11,000 over two years, said: “Our financial performance for 2013 reflects the ongoing impact from the loss of exclusivity for several key brands. In the near term these headwinds will remain challenging, however I am confident that we can return to growth… and expect our 2017 revenues will be broadly in line with 2013.”

He also said Astra’s late-stage pipeline of drugs that are close to being put forward for regulatory approval has nearly doubled.

The shares fell 3.5%, or 135.5p, to 3741.5p.

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