The strength of the euro against the dollar and the yen, plus increased R&D costs mean that Boehringer Ingelheim has posted a 10.1% decline in earnings for the first half of 2008, but its three blockbusters are still selling well.

Operating income came in at 899 million euros, while turnover rose 9.0% in local currency (but just 2.1 % reported) to 5.52 billion euros. Prescription drug sales were up 8.5% (local) to 4.35 billion euros, driven by Spiriva (tiotropium bromide) for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which brought in 976 million euros, up 23.8%.

The blood pressure drug Micardis (telmisartan) saw sales of 603 million euros, up 11.5%, while Flomax/Alna (tamsulosin) for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia, rose 7.3% to 496 billion euros. Sales of the anti-inflammatory drug Mobic (meloxicam) sank 27% to 89 million euros as the impact of generic competition in the USA struck home, but revenues at Boehringer’s consumer health care grew 5.1% in local currencies to 569 million euros.

The results were in line with expectations and chairman Alessandro Banchi noted that “we posted excellent growth in all countries”. The performance in the first half showed that the German firm “remains on a healthy growth path and…continues to outpace the pharma market.

Boehringer’s increased R&D spend has started to pay off in the last few months with the European approval of Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate), an oral direct thrombin inhibitor for the prevention of venous thromboembolic disorders following hip or knee replacement surgery in adults. Touted as a blockbuster, the drug has now been introduced across north and has also been approved in Canada and New Zealand.

The firm added that the large-scale study programme in the additional indications for Pradaxa of prevention of stroke associated with atrial fibrillation and treatment of acute thrombosis is making good progress, and recruitment has begun for a Phase II study in acute coronary artery disease. Phase III studies of flibanserin for hypoactive female sexual desire disorder have been completed and are currently being evaluated.

Interestingly, at a time when lay-offs within the pharmaceutical industry seem to be de rigeur, Boehringer noted that the first half saw its headcount rise 3.8% to just over 39,800, and a spokesman told PharmaTimes World News that the firm’s expanded R&D efforts means that skilled staff are still needed.