AstraZeneca has this morning posted financials which have exceeded market expectations, boosted by strong sales of the cholesterol-lowerer Crestor and the blood pressure drug Toprol XL.

The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker has posted a 7% rise in sales (at constant exchange rates) to $7.70 billion, while operating profit was up 40% to $3.16 billion. The company’s biggest earner was the antiulcerant blockbuster Nexium (esomeprazole) which were up 2% to $1.19 billion, but the most impressive performance, however, came from Crestor (rosuvastatin) which increased 35% to $969 million. AstraZeneca noted that Crestor remains the only branded statin to gain market share.

Equally impressive was a return to growth for Toprol XL/Seloken (metoprolol), up 59% to $288 million. US sales, which includes revenues from an authorised generic, increased 175% to $176 million, helped by the withdrawal of two copycat products from the market.

Revenues from the asthma combo Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol) increased 24% to $515 million, while the antipsychotic Seroquel (quetiapine) rose 11% to $1.13 billion. Sales of the breast cancer drug Arimidex (anastrozole) were up 14% to $463 million, while generic competition to Casodex (bicalutamide) saw the drug fall 27% to $236 million. The respiratory infection drug Synagis (palivizumab), from the company’s MedImmune unit, rose 5% to $545 million.

Chief executive David Brennan said “our business has proved to be resilient in the first quarter, the result of excellent execution in driving growth in key product franchises and in all regions, whilst delivering improvements in operating efficiency”. He added that AstraZeneca’s full-year target for core earnings per share for the full year of $5.15-$5.45 “remains unchanged, reflecting our continued caution about the 2009 outlook for the pharmaceutical sector in the context of global economic conditions".

More details of the results will be revealed on a conference call later today but investors like what they have seen already. At 11.50 (UK time), AstraZeneca’s shares were up 4.7% to £25.58.