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AstraZeneca reveals drug pipeline blow


Drugs giant AstraZeneca today warned profits would be at the lower end of its expectations after suffering setbacks in its efforts to produce new blockbuster treatments.

The UK's second-biggest medicine maker said an ovarian cancer drug called olaparib will not progress for further development after tests revealed it was unlikely to prove effective.

And the results of tests on drugs for patients with major depressive disorders were disappointing although research is still ongoing.

As a result, the group said it will take impairment charges of $381.5m (£246m) in the final quarter of 2011, which mean that its earnings were likely to be in the lower half of its range of forecasts.

Shares dropped 3% amid fears that Astra has relatively few new drugs to replace its existing stable such as Nexium for heartburn and schizophrenia drug Seroquel.

Astra, which employs around 11,000 staff in the UK, has operations across the UK at sites including Macclesfield and Wilmslow in Cheshire, Luton, Loughborough, Edinburgh and Brixham in Devon.

The pharmaceuticals industry is facing a challenging period as it looks for new products and faces the loss of exclusivity on existing drugs.

Astra has in recent years been hampered by problems with its newest medicines after it discontinued its motavizumab drug, used to prevent serious lung disease, leading to a $445m (£287.2m) accounting charge.

It also suffered delays in winning approval from US regulators for its heart medicine Brilinta. The US Food and Drug Administration requested further analysis into the blood-thinning pill before clearing the drug for sale.