AstraZeneca, already plagued by Crestor generics, posts street-beating Q2 on diabetes, new cancer meds

It’s a silver-lining quarter for AstraZeneca. Second-quarter sales slid--but not as far as market watchers expected. Crestor generics took a bite out of that brand, but AstraZeneca’s other post-patent cliff brand, Nexium, delivered some offsetting sales. And diabetes, emerging markets and new cancer meds showed their spirit.

The numbers explain a few things about AstraZeneca these days: Why, for instance, the company pulled out all the stops to block a Crestor generics pile-on; even with just one authorized generic on the market, the big-selling statin brand still fell $60 million below expectations, with $926 million in Q2 sales, a decline of almost 30%. Now that the FDA has cleared another half dozen copycat pills, Q3 sales are sure to suffer much more.

They also illustrate AstraZeneca’s good fortune with Tagrisso, which had been set for a head-to-head battle in lung cancer until Clovis Oncology bagged its rival med, rociletinib. The AstraZeneca drug, a first-in-class kinase inhibitor for EGFR-positive lung cancer, snared $92 million in sales for the quarter, bringing its first-half total to $143 million. Quick work for a drug that only just launched in November--and with new data in second-line lung cancer, faster growth could well be ahead.

And they highlight CEO Pascal Soriot’s choice of “growth platforms,” as one of them--diabetes--made 18% gains during the first half of the year, and another--emerging markets--racked up an 7% revenue increase, thanks to 11% growth in China.

Overall, drug sales for the quarter stood at $5.47 billion, down 5% in constant currencies. For the full first half, the decline amounted to 2%, with product sales of $11.03 billion.

Along with “externalization revenue,” or the cash AstraZeneca collected from the products and programs it offloaded to buyers and partners, total revenue for the first half hit $11.7 billion, a 3% decline.

What these numbers didn’t explain? Just how Soriot plans to get to $45 billion in sales by 2023, as promised when fending off Pfizer’s 2014 takeover attempt. If the bid to limit Crestor generics had succeeded, and AstraZeneca managed to cling to blockbuster-level sales, that would have helped. And AZ might still appeal. But failing that, Soriot will likely have to make a big purchase. Medivation, perhaps?

- see the AZ release

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