Warner plays down Sarafem sales slide

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The Independent Online

Warner Chilcott, the Northern Irish drug maker, sought to calm nerves over slumping sales of a premenstrual tension drug yesterday.

Warner Chilcott, the Northern Irish drug maker, sought to calm nerves over slumping sales of a premenstrual tension drug yesterday.

The company, whose shares have fallen one-third since the spring, blamed a 69 per cent slide in third-quarter sales of Sarafem on stocking patterns by wholesalers. The explanation, and news of stronger-than-expected sales of oral contraceptives and acne treatments, sent its shares 25p higher to 575p.

Unveiling a 110 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to $158m (£86m) for the nine months to June, Roger Boissonneault, the chief executive, said Sarafem prescriptions were in gentle decline rather than freefall.

Concerns over Sarafem have weighed on Warner Chilcott's share price since its peak in March. The product was acquired from the US giant Eli Lilly in 2002 for £187m, but it was only last month that the company won a US court battle to protect its patents.

Mr Boissonneault said prescriptions of the drug would continue to fall until Warner Chilcott introduced a new version in 2006, adding: "We... bought Sarafem not for what it is but for what it could be."

However, Jonathan Senior, at Evolution Beeson Gregory, said: "Sarafem has not been the greatest acquisition [as] what was looking like a $90m a year product is now a $60m product."

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