AstraZeneca has made some positive noises about its financial performance in the first quarter despite posting a slight decline in earnings and reduced sales of its antiulcerant blockbuster Nexium.

Operating profit fell 5% to $2.26 billion, which the firm said was principally due to $117 million in restructuring and synergy costs and $109 million related to its purchase of MedImmune. The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker also took a $257 million asset-impairment charge taken after an ‘at-risk’ launch by India’s Sun Pharma of a generic version of MedImmune’s cancer agent Ethyol (amifostine).

Sales climbed 10% to $1.24 billion, and Nexium (esomeprazole) fell 9% to $5.2 billion, which AstraZeneca said was principally due to slightly lower prices and trade destocking in the USA as sales volumes was pretty much the same. The blood pressure drug Toprol XL/Seloken (metoprolol) sank 60% to $190 million, eroded by generics.

On the bright side, the cholesterol-lowerer Crestor (rosuvastatin) was up 16% at $772 million, with over half the sales coming from outside the USA, while the asthma combo Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol) increased 21% to $471 million. The company noted that US regulatory filings for Symbicort for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and for paediatric use are planned for the second quarter this year.

Sales of Seroquel (quetiapine) for schizophrenia increased 10% to $1.05 billion, while the breast cancer drug Arimidex (anastrozole) was up 2% to $430 billion. However two other oncology agents, Casodex (bicalutamide) and Zoladex (goserelin), fell 5% and 6% to $316 million and $249 million, respectively. MedImmune’s respiratory infection drug Synagis (palivizumab) contributed $519 million to AstraZeneca’s coffers.

Chief executive David Brennan claimed that the first quarter performance “puts us on track to achieve our full year financial targets”. Indeed the company has raised its earnings per share forecast to $4.45-$4.75 from $4.40-$4.70.