AstraZeneca's first-quarter revenue grows, with sales of oncology drugs climbing more than 50 percent

Headline results for the first quarter:

Product sales

$5.5 billion (forecasts of $5.3 billion)

+10%

Revenue

$5.5 billion

+6%

Profit

$563 million

+78%

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

What the company said:

CEO Pascal Soriot noted that product sales growth "reflected the success of our new medicines and emerging markets," adding that "in oncology, Tagrisso, Imfinzi and Lynparza continued to do well and…Farxiga, Brilinta and Fasenra also grew strongly." Soriot continued "emerging markets, our largest sales region, delivered an outstanding performance…all of its sub-regions grew strongly, including China at 28 percent."

However, Ruud Dobber, executive vice president of biopharma, suggested that "the enormous growth you currently see in China…probably is not sustainable, but we feel very bullish that the growth will continue to be at a pace of between 15 percent and 20 percent."

Other results:

  • Oncology product sales: $1.9 billion, up 54 percent
    • Tagrisso: $630 million, up 86 percent, boosted by last year's approval in first-line EGFR-mutated non-small-cell lung cancer
    • Imfinzi: $295 million, up 376 percent, driven by ongoing launches for the treatment of patients with unresectable, Stage III NSCLC
    • Lynparza: $237 million, up 99 percent, led by expanded use in the treatment of ovarian and breast cancer
  • Cardiovascular, renal and metabolic disease product sales: $1.7 billion, up 4 percent
    • Farxiga: $349 million, up 17 percent
    • Brilinta: $348 million, up 19 percent, buoyed by continued market penetration in the treatment of acute coronary syndrome and high-risk post-myocardial infarction
    • Crestor: $335 million, down 14 percent, hit by generic competition in Europe and the US

Respiratory product sales: $1.3 billion, up 9 percent

  • Symbicort: $585 million, down 8 percent, with sales in the US hit by pricing pressure and the impact of managed-market rebates
  • Pulmicort: $383 million, up 11 percent
  • Nexium: $363 million, down 19 percent
  • Emerging market sales: $2 billion, up 14 percent, with sales in China climbing 21 percent to $1.2 billion
  • Collaboration revenue: $26 million, down 87 percent

Looking ahead:

AstraZeneca reaffirmed that it expects product sales in 2019 to grow by a "high single-digit percentage increase," while core earnings per share are predicted to be in the range of $3.50 to $3.70.

What analysts said:

Nicholas Hyett of Hargreaves Lansdown suggested that the results vindicate Soriot's strategy and show that "revenue growth is no longer a matter of faith" for investors.

Pipeline update:

AstraZeneca disclosed that it ended development of four drugs in Phase II development during the quarter, including prezalumab, a B7RP1 monoclonal antibody for Sjogren's syndrome, the FGFR inhibitor AZD4547, the PI3K inhibitor AZD8186 and the PD-1 monoclonal antibody MEDI0680. Meanwhile, development of early-stage drugs including the ATM inhibitor AZD0156 and the KRAS inhibitor AZD4785 was also halted.

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