Roche has started the reporting season this morning by posting a 3% decline in turnover to 11.49 billion Swiss francs for the third quarter, hit by lower sales of Tamiflu and slower growth from Avastin.

Pharmaceutical sales were down 5% in local currencies to just over 9.00 billion francs, driven again by its oncology segment. The firm’s top-selling drug Avastin (bevacizumab) had sales of 1.61 billion francs, up 7%, but down from the 10% growth seen in the second quarter. while MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab), for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia as well as rheumatoid arthritis, contributed 1.52 billion francs, an increase of 6%.

Sales of Herceptin (trastuzumab) for HER2-positive breast cancer rose 8% to 1.36 billion francs, while the chemotherapy Xeloda (capecitabine) grew 16% to 361 million francs. Sales of Tarceva (erlotinib), for advanced lung and pancreatic cancer, increased 9% to 331 million francs.

As for Roche’s other products, Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a), for hepatitis B and C, fell 8% to 384 million francs, while US turnover of Lucentis (ranibizumab) for wet age-related macular degeneration jumped 34% to 384 million francs. Sales of the antiviral Tamiflu (oseltamivir) predictably fell 90% to 98 million francs, as swine flu fears disappeared, while RoActemra/Actemra (tocilizumab), for rheumatoid arthritis, rocketed 176% to 107 million francs.

Despite "the more challenging market environment", Roche confirmed its full-year outlook for 2010 of a sales increase in the mid-single-digit range and double-digit growth in core earnings per share. The Swiss major, which does not publish quarterly earnings, added that its Operational Excellence cost-cutting initiative is well under way, with specific measures to be announced before year-end