Belgium’s UCB has posted a better-than-expected set of financials for the first half of 2011 as the threat of generics to key drugs, notably the antiepileptic Keppra, has been less than feared.

Core profit, ie recurring earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, climbed 11% to 443 million euros, while total revenues were up 2% to 1.68 billion euros. Sales of Keppra (levetiracetam) were up 10% to 507 million euros.

Generic competition in North America reduced sales of the drug there by 13% but those declines were compensated by a 20% rise in Europe, "benefiting from limited generic entry to date". Keppra revenues from the rest of world were up 25%, driven by the launch of E Keppra in Japan.

The antihistamine Zyrtec (cetirizine) increased 11% to 166 million euros, while its follow-up Xyzal (levocetirizine) rose 7% to 68 million euros, despite the loss of patent protection in Europe. Sales of the anti-tussive Tussionex (hydrocodone and chlorpheniramine) fell 45% to 24 million euros, due to generic competition.

UCB’s new products also impressed, especially Cimzia (certolizumab pegol) for rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. It had sales of 143 million euros, up 72%, while the new antiepileptic Vimpat (lacosamide) brought in 97 million euros, an increase of 76%. Sales of the Neupro (rotigotine) patch for Parkinson’s disease and restless legs syndrome rose 17% to 45 million euros.

Roch Doliveux, UCB’s chief executive,  said "we are excited about the momentum of Cimzia, Vimpat and Neupro, about the potential UCB new medicines from our promising pipeline and about the fact that from 2012 onward, we will have a decade without impacts from major patent expirations".