AstraZeneca’s second quarter financials show healthy rises in sales and profits and the firm has raised its full-year earnings guidance, while hailing its performance in the emerging markets.

Core operating profit increased 3% to $2.74 billion, while sales at constant exchange rates were up 2% to $7.96 billion. The antiulcwerant blockbuster Nexium (esomeprazole) fell 4% to $1.32 billion, and sales were down 12% in the USA which AstraZeneca said was principally due to lower prices there. The blood pressure drug Toprol XL/Seloken (metoprolol) sank 58% to $206 million, eroded by generics.

On the bright side, the cholesterol-lowerer Crestor (rosuvastatin) soared 27% at $916 million, and AstraZeneca noted that it is the only branded statin to gain share in the USA during 2008, fuelled by promotion of the atherosclerosis indication. Revenues from the asthma combo Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol) increased 12% to $518 million.

Sales of Seroquel (quetiapine) for schizophrenia increased 11% to $1.11 billion, while the breast cancer drug Arimidex (anastrozole) was up 6% to $490 billion. The respiratory infection drug Synagis (palivizumab), from the company’s MedImmune unit, contributed just $81 million to AstraZeneca’s coffers, due to the “promunced seasonal pattern” of its sales.

In geographic terms, US sales were up 4% excluding the Toprol XL effect and western Europe sneaked up just 1%. Sales in Japan rose 10% but most impressive were the emerging markets where revenues were up 20%, the first time sales exceeded $1 billion in a quarter.

Chief executive David Brennan said that during the first half of 2008, AstraZeneca “has made good progress on three fronts – performance, pipeline and patents”. The business is on track to “achieve our increased
financial target for the year and we continue to strengthen the pipeline”, he added, and “we have mitigated the biggest near-term financial risks with the Nexium patent settlement and the successful summary judgement motion for Seroquel.”

The company has raised its earnings per share forecast to $4.40-$4.90 from $4.45-$4.75. There is a conference call this afternoon and PharmaTimes World News will have all the highlights tomorrow.