AZ profits plummet, but Crestor shines

Blame it on Seroquel, for one thing. AstraZeneca posted a big drop in third-quarter operating profits, weighed down by a charge of $473 million to cover potential Seroquel liabilities and $212 million in restructuring costs. Generic competition and the lack of pandemic-level flu vaccine sales also helped push net income down by 27 percent to $1.55 billion.

New rivals for its Arimidex cancer therapy, Pulmicort Respules asthma drug, and Toprol XL blood pressure remedy conspired with the loss of swine-flu shot sales to drag sales down by four percent to $7.9 billion, slightly below analyst estimates. Nonetheless, CEO David Brennan says he expects the company to hit its targets for the year.

One bright light, as PharmaTimes points out, is Crestor. The cholesterol drug, a late entry into the statin market, grew sales by 20 percent to $1.37 billion. Prescriptions grew by 12 percent, five times the level of scrip growth for the overall U.S. statin market. That's a good thing, too, because AstraZeneca is counting on Crestor to help make up for key patent losses over the next couple of years. The key question, as Datamonitor's Simon King says, is whether Crestor can perform after generic rivals to statin giant Lipitor appear in late 2011.

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