Roche’s nine-month results show that group sales fell 2% to just over 33.1 billion Swiss francs (up 6% in local currencies), while the firm’s pharmaceuticals division suffered a 3% sales decline to 26.19 billion francs.

The company is still being hit hard by a severe reduction in revenues from the influenza jab Tamiflu (oseltamivir) which fell back 69% globally to 428 million francs. The decline was expected, as most of the firm’s existing pandemic stockpiling orders have now been fulfilled.

There was much to be positive about, however, and sales of the division’s oncology products were once again impressive. MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab) for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma grew 16% to 4.3 billion francs, while sales of Herceptin (trastuzumab) were up 12% to 3.8 billion francs.

Avastin (bevacizumab) recorded an increase of 37% to 3.7 billion francs, while Tarceva (erlotinib) sales grew by 24% to 885 million francs. Xeloda (capecitabine) turnover was up 14% to 880 million francs, boosted by strong growth in Japan.

The transplantation product CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) rose 14% to 1.5 billion francs, while Roche’s hepatitis C treatment Pegasys (peginterferon alfa) was up 6% to 1.2 billion francs. The osteoporosis drug Boniva/Bonviva (ibandronic acid) put in a good showing, climbing 41% to 775 million francs.

Combined sales of Roche’s NeoRecormon and its Chugai unit’s Epogin (epoetin beta), for anaemia, declined 14% to 1.3 billion Swiss francs, “reflecting the highly competitive market environment,” the firm said. Mircera (methoxy polyethylene glycol-epoetin beta), for the treatment of symptomatic anaemia associated with chronic kidney disease, has been launched in 28 countries so far, including several major European markets and “physician feedback from the early launch markets is positive”.

Roche also confirmed its commitment to a $43.7 billion, or $89 per share bid, it made for the 44% stake in Genentech it does not already own. That offer was rejected by the US biotechnology firm but Roche chief executive Severin Schwan said: “I would like to reaffirm that we remain committed to the deal and we aim for a negotiated settlement"

Mr Schwan added that "at this point we would not give any details or further information on how we arrange the financing and where exactly we stand in the negotiating process". He also noted that the credit crunch has been "immaterial" to the firm’s earnings.

Roche confirmed its full-year outlook, saying that excluding Tamiflu sales, it anticipates a high single-digit increase in group turnover. Earnings per share will remain in line with 2007 results.