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MEDICINE

Profits surge for AstraZeneca

(AFP) Troubled Anglo-Swedish drugs giant AstraZeneca revealed on Thursday a record 37-percent increase in pre-tax profits for the first quarter of 2005, boosted by strong sales growth and cost cutting.

Pre-tax profits rose to 1.486 billion dollars for the three months to March, compared with 1.084 billion dollars for the same period the previous year, AstraZeneca said.

“These record profits derive from a strong sales performance, especially for our key growth products,” said chief executive Tom McKillop.

And it included “ongoing productivity improvements in research and development” and sales and general costs, he added.

“This excellent start to the year has set us on track to deliver our financial targets for the year.”

Sales for the period totalled 5.74 billion dollars, a rise of 13 percent compared with the same quarter in 2004.

That beat analysts’ consensus forecasts of 5.55 billion dollars. Meanwhile, operating profit increased by 38 percent to 1.45 billion dollars, overshooting analysts’ predictions of 1.31 billion.

AstraZeneca is striving to overcome a series of damaging setbacks, including the provisional rejection by US regulators of its blood-thinning drug Exanta and an admission that its Iressa cancer treatment was unable to prolong the life of patients significantly.

Promotion of Iressa has been suspended by AstraZeneca while the US Food and Drug Administration completes its assessment.

NORWAY

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland

Norway, which has suspended the use of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine until further notice, will send 216,000 doses to Sweden and Iceland at their request, the Norwegian health ministry said Thursday.

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland
Empty vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“I’m happy that the vaccines we have in stock can be put to use even if the AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in Norway,” Health Minister Bent Høie said in a statement.

The 216,000 doses, which are currently stored in Norwegian fridges, have to be used before their expiry dates in June and July.

Sweden will receive 200,000 shots and Iceland 16,000 under the expectation they will return the favour at some point. 

“If we do resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we will get the doses back as soon as we ask,” Høie said.

Like neighbouring Denmark, Norway suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 in order to examine rare but potentially severe side effects, including blood clots.

Among the 134,000 AstraZeneca shots administered in Norway before the suspension, five cases of severe thrombosis, including three fatal ones, had been registered among relatively young people in otherwise good health. One other person died of a brain haemorrhage.

On April 15, Norway’s government ignored a recommendation from the Institute of Public Health to drop the AstraZeneca jab for good, saying it wanted more time to decide.

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine 

The government has therefore set up a committee of Norwegian and international experts tasked with studying all of the risks linked to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is also suspected of causing blood clots.

Both are both based on adenovirus vector technology. Denmark is the only European country to have dropped the AstraZeneca
vaccine from its vaccination campaign, and said on Tuesday it would “lend” 55,000 doses to the neighbouring German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

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