Patents headache hits AstraZeneca sales

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The new chief executive of AstraZeneca might need to up the dosage of his treatment plans for Britain's second-biggest drug maker, after it posted a worse-than-expected 19 per cent slump in third-quarter sales.

Pre-tax profit in the quarter fell from $4.2bn (£2.5bn) a year ago to $2bn. Pascal Soriot, who suspended AstraZeneca's share buyback scheme on his first day in the job this month, said the drug maker's chronic ailment – the expiry of patents on several key medicines – was continuing.

This year the antipsychotic drug Seroquel faced generic competition, which saw Astra's revenues in the US fall 19 per cent. Overall revenues in the third quarter fell to $6.7bn, from $8.2bn a year earlier.

Mr Soriot said: "My priority is to restore the company to growth and scientific leadership." Analysts say acquisitions are also possible.