AZ buoyed by profits boost, Brilinta advance

AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) is riding a wave of good news. First, the company's experimental anti-clotting drug Brilinta won wholehearted approval from an FDA advisory panel. Next, the company reported stronger-than-expected second-quarter earnings. It hiked its 2010 forecast for the third time. And it announced a $2 billion share-buyback program.

The FDA committee voted 7-1 for Brilinta, advocating its use in acute coronary syndrome and in patients at risk of an invasive procedure. "The breadth of the recommendation is a net positive for Astra," Dominic Valder of Evolution Securities tells investors (as quoted by The Guardian). Brilinta is one of AZ's potential tools for plugging up patent-expiration sales holes; CEO David Brennan (photo) is aiming for $4 billion to $6 billion in new sales by 2014, and analysts say Brilinta could account for $1.47 billion of that.

Another of those tools is Crestor, which steamed forward with a 23 percent increase in second-quarter sales, fueling the company's 23 percent rise in Q2 profits, to $2.11 billion. Now that Crestor's patent is secure--thanks to that recent court ruling--that kind of growth holds promise for big sales for many quarters to come. And it helped prompt AZ to raise its annual earnings forecast to $6.35 to $6.65 per share, up from $6.05 to $6.35. 

But--and there is a but--Brennan warns that the second half of the year won't be as rosy as the first, thanks in part to generic competition for AZ's cancer drug Arimidex. Plus, the second half of 2010 will be compared with the second half of 2009, which got a boost from pandemic flu sales.

- read the Bloomberg story
- get more from MarketWatch
- check out the Guardian piece
- see the coverage in the Wall Street Journal