AstraZeneca profits leap

Anglo-Swedish drugs giant AstraZeneca reported on Thursday a 33.5-percent leap in net profits during the first half of 2006.

Net profits soared to 3.026 billion dollars in the six months to June 30, compared with 2.267 billion in the same period of 2005, AstraZeneca said in its interim results statement.

Group sales increased 7.8 percent to 12.805 billion dollars, or by 11 percent at constant rates of exchange. Earnings per share surged 41 percent to 1.02 dollars.

“The strong-second quarter earnings performance reflects our continued delivery of good sales growth and margin expansion,” chief executive David Brennan said in comments accompanying the release.

The group was boosted by sales of ulcer drug Nexium, anti-depressant Seroquel and cholesterol drug Crestor.

First-half sales of Nexium rose 11 percent, Seroquel increased by 29 percent and Crestor surged by 48 percent.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca had said last Saturday that it has won approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for asthma dug Symbicort, but did not plan to launch it into the American market until mid-2007.

“The prospects for our current portfolio have been strengthened by the Symbicort approval in the US and the regulatory submission for Seroquel in the US,” Brennan added in Thursday’s earnings release.

The earlier than expected approval for Symbicort is seen as a potential blow to rival GlaxoSmithKline, which makes the competing drug Advair.


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.