AstraZeneca says profits hit by legal charges

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Anglo-Swedish drugs giant AstraZeneca on Thursday posted lower third-quarter net profits on the back of competition from generic drugmakers, restructuring costs and massive legal charges.

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 dollars (1.13 billion euros) in the three months to September, compared with 2.12 billion dollars in third quarter 2009.

Revenues fell 7.9 billion dollars in the reporting period from 8.2 billion euros 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.

© 2010 AFP

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