AstraZeneca posts profits hike

Anglo-Swedish drugs giant AstraZeneca on Thursday announced net profits for 2010 of more than $8.0 billion, a seven percent rise on the previous year on the back of higher sales of its cholesterol treatment Crestor.

AstraZeneca posts profits hike

The firm said in a statement that group earnings after tax grew to $8.053 billion from $7.521 billion in 2009.

“Our performance in 2010 underlines the strength and resilience of AstraZeneca’s business,” group chief executive David Brennan said.

“Despite government pricing pressures and anticipated patent expiries in the US and Western Europe, our revenues remained in line with the previous year driven by excellent performance of our key brands and continued growth in Emerging Markets.

“This performance, combined with disciplined management of the business enabled us to deliver increased earnings, increase the dividend and return residual cash to shareholders through share repurchases,” he added.

AstraZeneca returned $2.1 billion to shareholders in 2010 after buying back

shares and said it planned to hand over $4.0 billion this year.

The company added that total group revenue increased 1.4 percent to $33.269

billion in 2010.

“Declines in the US from generic competition and the absence of H1N1 (flu) vaccine revenue was offset by good growth in the rest of world. Revenue in the US was down 7 percent, whilst revenue in the rest of world increased by 7 percent.”

It added that sales in emerging markets exceeded $5.0 billion for the first time.

AstraZeneca added that net profit increased 4.4 percent to $1.621 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with earnings of $1.553 billion a year earlier.

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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.