Generic drugs hit AstraZeneca profits

Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca on Thursday reported a dip in third-quarter net profits as competition from generic drugmakers, restructuring costs and massive legal charges took their toll.

Generic drugs hit AstraZeneca profits

The group said in a statement that profits after tax sank in the three months to September despite a strong performance in emerging markets and sales of key drugs like cholesterol product Crestor.

During the third quarter, Britain’s second-biggest drugmaker was hit by legal charges of 473 million dollars related to ongoing product liability litigation for the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel in the United States.

“We remain firmly on track to achieve our full year financial targets,” chief executive David Brennan said in the statement.

“The third quarter performance featured double-digit revenue growth in emerging markets. Revenue also increased in western Europe and established (markets in the) rest of world.

“As expected, the impact of generic competition on several products and the

absence of pandemic flu vaccine revenue led to a challenging quarter in the US.”

The group said net profits sank to $1.55 billion (€1.13 billion) in the three months to September, compared with $2.12 billion in the third quarter 2009.

Revenues fell $7.9 billion in the reporting period from €8.2 billion last time around.

Sales in the United States were adversely affected by generic competition for breast cancer treatment Arimidex, asthma drug Pulmicort Respules and high blood pressure drug Toprol-XL.

The group’s results were boosted in the third quarter of 2009 by sales of its H1N1 pandemic influenza vaccine.

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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.