AstraZeneca beats estimates with strong cancer and diabetes drug sales

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Strong sales of drugs for cancer and diabetes helped AstraZeneca beat expectations in the second quarter, as the drugmaker expands its genomic medicine business with a $1bn deal to buy assets from Pfizer.

Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, said eight medicines delivered more than $1bn of revenue in the first half, with each area of the business, except Covid-19 therapies, growing by double digits year-on-year. 

Soriot added that the company is encouraged by positive data from its closely watched first late-stage trial of oncology drug datopotamab deruxtecan. 

“We look forward to sharing the data with the medical community at an upcoming medical congress and are proceeding to file the data with the US Food and Drug Administration,” he said.

Investors were disappointed when the company first published results from the trial earlier in July, sending the stock down almost 8 per cent. Analysts said shareholders were concerned that AstraZeneca did not say that the data showed the drug was “clinically meaningful”.

AstraZeneca also announced its plan to acquire Pfizer’s early-stage portfolio of gene therapies, in a deal worth up to $1bn, plus royalties on future sales.

The deal follows AstraZeneca’s entry into rare diseases with its $39bn acquisition of Alexion in 2020. Marc Dunoyer, chief executive for the Alexion rare disease business within AstraZeneca, said the deal was “another major step forward” in its ambition to become an industry leader in genomic medicine. 

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker reported adjusted earnings per share of $2.15, up 38 per cent year-on-year, and higher than the consensus forecast of $1.98.

Sales were $11.2bn, up 17 per cent from the same period the year before, excluding medicines for Covid-19, and above the average analyst estimate of $11bn.

Farxiga, a drug for type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease and heart failure, became the company’s biggest seller for the first time in the quarter, with sales up 41 per cent at constant exchange rates, while sales of oncology drugs increased by 25 per cent.

The company’s executive vice-president Mene Pangalos plans to step down after a 14-year tenure that included playing a crucial role delivering the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Soriot said Pangalos had transformed AstraZeneca’s approach to research and development, delivering a more than fivefold improvement in productivity.

Alexion’s Sharon Barr will replace him, becoming responsible for drugs in cardiovascular, renal, metabolism, respiratory and immunology.

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