AstraZeneca has posted a 7% rise in sales (at constant exchange rates) to $8.58 billion and operating profits of $3.86 billion (+10) this morning, helped by the continued strong performance of the cholesterol drug Crestor and strong sales in the emerging markets.

Turnover from Crestor (rosuvastatin) increased 27% to $1.30 billion and most strikingly in the USA, sales reached $583 million, a 22% increase over last year. Crestor total prescriptions increased 15%, nearly five times the percentage growth for the US statin market as a whole.

Sales for Toprol XL/Seloken (metoprolol) were up 24% to $367 million, including sales of an authorised generic, while revenues for the antiulcerant blockbuster Nexium (esomeprazole) were up 3.9% to $1.24 billion.The asthma combo Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol) increased 29% to $701 million, while sales of the antipsychotic Seroquel (quetiapine) rose 13% to $1.31 billion.

Turnover of the breast cancer drug Arimidex (anastrozole) were up 7% to $511 million, while generic competition to Casodex (bicalutamide) saw the drug fall 42% to $143 million. The prostate cancer treatment Zoladex (goserelin) brought in $265 million (+6%) and the lung cancer drug Iressa (gefitinib) climbed 19% to $83 million. Revenues from AstraZeneca’s swine flu vaccine reached $39 million.

More disappointing was the performance of the diabetes compound Onglyza (saxagliptin), partnered with Bristol-Myers Squibb and approved in the USA last year. AstraZeneca’s share of the profits reached just $4 million.

Chief executive David Brennan said the first quarter results reflect continued strong market performance for Crestor, Seroquel and Symbicort and “we saw revenue growth in all major regions, including another strong quarter in emerging markets”, where sales rose 19% to $1.26 billon. However he said that revenue comparisons “will become more challenging in the second half of the year” as a result of the uplift from Toprol-XL and H1N1 vaccine sales in 2009 and the expiration of the Arimidex patent later this year.

Despite this, AstraZeneca has raised its earnings forecast for 2010, excluding certain restructuring costs and charges, to $6.05-$6.35 per share from previous guidance of $5.90-$6.30. The previous estimate “ already included reasonable assumptions as to the impact from US healthcare reform legislation”, AstraZeneca said, consequently no adjustments to guidance are needed.