AstraZeneca says profits slid in first quarter

Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca said on Thursday that first-quarter net profits fell 3.7 percent to $1.503 amid restructuring.

Pre-tax profits declined by 5.5 percent to $2.143 billion in the three months ending March 31st, compared with the equivalent period of 2007.

That dashed market expectations of $2.23 billion.

Sales jumped by 10.2 percent to $7.677 billion, but the group’s major products enjoyed mixed fortunes.

Sales of the group’s leading drug, heartburn treatment Nexium, fell by nine percent to $1.238 billion, compared with 1.308 billion previously.

Nexium is a key focus for analysts as sales have been slowing in the United States and the market has been impacted by fierce competition from generic drugmakers.

Seroquel, AstraZeneca’s schizophrenia drug, fared better, with sales rising by 10 percent to $1.050 billion.

Cholesterol treatment Crestor saw its sales jump by 16 percent to $772 million.

Faced with soaring costs and competition from generic groups, AstraZeneca unveiled plans in 2006 to slash 7,600 jobs by 2010.

The group revealed on Thursday that it booked $117 million in restructuring costs during the first quarter of 2008.


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.