AstraZeneca's cancer drugs lead second-quarter growth

Headline results for the second quarter:

Revenue

$5.2 billion (forecasts of $5.1 billion)

+2%

Profit

$412 million

Versus $492 million

Note: All changes are versus the prior-year period unless otherwise stated

What the company said:

"The performance in the first half demonstrated that we remain firmly on track to return our company to product sales growth in 2018," commented CEO Pascal Soriot, adding "our new medicines performed strongly and have established themselves as major drivers."

AstraZeneca also indicated that it will freeze drug prices in the US for the remainder of 2018, with Soriot noting "there is a clear commitment in the company to not increase prices in the second half of the year." The chief executive said that in the first half, AstraZeneca raised US list prices by a "modest" 1 percent to 3 percent, adding that net prices after rebates are actually falling.

Other results:

  • Product sales: $5 billion, up 2 percent
  • Oncology product sales: $1.4 billion, up 44 percent
    • Tagrisso: $422 million, up 82 percent
    • Lynparza: $150 million
    • Imfinzi: $122 million
  • Cardiovascular, renal and metabolic disease product sales: $974 million, up 12 percent
    • Farxiga: $340 million, up 36 percent
    • Brilinta: $316 million, up 16 percent
    • Bydureon: $155 million, up 6 percent
    • Crestor: $338 million down 40 percent
  • Respiratory product sales: $1.2 billion, up 12 percent
    • Symbicort: $672 million, down 5 percent
    • Pulmicort: $287 million, up 27 percent
    • Fasenra: $65 million, compared with analyst estimates of $34 million
  • Emerging market sales: $1.7 billion, up 15 percent, with sales in China climbing 37 percent to $868 million
  • Externalisation revenue: $125 million, up 14 percent

What analysts said:

"We have long believed that the focus on R&D at the time of when Pascal Soriot took charge would soon enough begin to bring rewards and we are beginning to see that come through now," noted The Share Centre analyst Helal Miah, adding "the pipeline remains attractive and the push into emerging markets will aid the turnaround in sales."

Looking ahead:

The company reaffirmed its prior guidance of a low single-digit percentage increase in product sales this year, with core earnings per share in the range of $3.30 to $3.50, at constant exchange rates.

Pipeline update:

AstraZeneca disclosed that a late-stage study of the MEK inhibitor selumetinib for the treatment of thyroid cancer failed to meet its primary endpoint. The drug, which was in-licensed from Array BioPharma, is being developed as part of the company's agreement with Merck & Co. Selumetinib has previously failed late-stage studies in lung cancer and uveal melanoma.

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