Cancer drugs, emerging markets boost Roche sales

Analysts were cheering Roche today as the Swiss drugmaker posted a 6 percent rise in first-quarter revenues, beating estimates. The company also confirmed its forecasts for the year, with CEO Severin Schwan saying that his company is "fully on track for 2010." First-quarter sales came in at $11.64 billion.

In a way, the company's Q1 performance could be seen as an illustration of where Big Pharma is going these days. One of the two standout performers for the quarter was Roche's oncology business--the sort of expensive, high-tech meds that drugmakers intend to lean on heavily in the coming years. Sales of the company's top-selling Avastin drug grew by 18 percent year-over-year, and its other cancer meds performed well, too.

The other standout was emerging markets. Virtually all of Big Pharma has been targeting the developing world for expansion as markets there are projected to far outpace growth in mature markets such as Europe and the U.S. Roche's push in that direction yielded a 27 percent rise in international pharma sales to 2.5 billion Swiss francs, or $2.3 billion. Diagnostics sales also grew in emerging markets. "We expect emerging markets to keep performing very well," said Pascal Soriot, COO of Roche's pharma division (as quoted by Dow Jones).

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