AstraZeneca has reported a 24% fall (at constant exchange rates) in operating profit for the third quarter to $2.41 billion this morning, hit by restructuring costs, legal charges and generic competition.

Revenues fell 2% to $7.90 billion, driven again by the continued strong performance of Crestor (rosuvastatin). Sales of the cholesterol drug increased 20% to $1.37 billion and in the USA, Crestor total prescriptions increased 12%, nearly five times the percentage growth for the US statin market as a whole. Other big earners were the asthma combo Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol), which rose 19% to $660 million, and the antipsychotic Seroquel (quetiapine) franchise, which climbed 7% to $1.30 billion, boosted by the performance of Seoquel XR (up 50% to $279 million).

AstraZeneca has taken a $473 million legal provision in the quarter  concerning ongoing product liability litigation for Seroquel which has been linked to an increased risk of diabetes.  Of that, $203 million relates to the agreements in principle that have already been reached to resolve more than 18,250 claims.

Sales for Toprol XL/Seloken (metoprolol) were down 34% to $273 million, hit by generic competition, while revenues for the antiulcerant blockbuster Nexium (esomeprazole) edged up 2% to $1.24 billion. Losec/Prilosec (omeprazole) brought in $233 million, down 4%.

As for oncology sales, Arimidex (anastrozole) fell 38% to $284 million (and down 80% in the USA, hit by generics), while generic competition to Casodex (bicalutamide) saw the drug fall 23% to $137 million. Zoladex (goserelin) brought in $268 million (-5%) , while Iressa (gefitinib) climbed 33% to $102 million.

The new diabetes compound Onglyza (saxagliptin), partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb, brought in $19 million, up from $9 million in the like, year-earlier quarter. AstraZeneca noted that the drug's share  of total prescriptions in the US dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor market reached 9.1% in the week ending October 15.

Chief executive David Brennan said “we remain firmly on track to achieve our full year financial targets", noting that the third quarter featured double-digit revenue growth in the emerging markets. Revenues also increased in Western Europe and the 'established' rest of the world but "the impact of generic competition on several products and the absence of pandemic flu vaccine revenue led to a challenging quarter in the USA".

AstraZeneca has raised its earnings forecast for 2010 to $6.50-$6.65 from a previous guidance of $6.35-$6.50 per share. It now expects revenues to be about the same level as 2009, ie around $32.8 billion.