AstraZeneca profits fall 13 percent in Q4

LONDON AstraZeneca recently reported its fourth quarter and full year results. Profits for the company in the fourth quarter fell 13 percent to $1.84 billion due in part to a lower demand for its most popular drugs, according to published reports.

For the year, net profits fell 6.5 percent to $7.98 billion. AstraZeneca’s fourth-quarter profit fell from $2.1 billion to $1.84 billion, but the number was still better than the $1.71 billion that analysts had expected.

Sales of the company’s gastroesophageal reflux disease drug, Nexium, declined 9 percent to $1.3 billion in the quarter. The fall is due to generic competition, which will increase in 2008 with generic versions of Nexium’s rival, Protonix by Wyeth, and with generic manufacturers looking to launch generic versions of Nexium itself before its patent expires.

Another one of the company’s drugs, which may face generic competition in 2008, is the schizophrenia drug Seroquel, which had a sales increase of 19 percent to $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter.

In a move similar to that of its rivals, the company is attempting to adjust to increased generic competition and a shortfall of new drugs being launched into the market by cutting its workforce. Last year AstraZeneca unveiled a cost-savings plan that is expected to reduce its staff by about 7,600, or 11 percent, at a cost of $1.6 billion.

The company is expecting better numbers in 2008 and hopes that its three experimental drugs get approved this year in the United States. These drugs are Motavizumab for respiratory infections, Saxagliptin for diabetes and Zactima for lung cancer.

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