Belgium’s UCB has posted a reasonably healthy set of financials for 2008 despite the impact of the US patent expiry on its antihistamine Zyrtec.

Recurring earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation reached 733 million euros, down 1% , while net income fell 74% to 42 million euros, hit by one-off restructuring (272 million euros) and impairment (160 million euros) charges. Revenues also dipped 1% to 3.60 billion euros, while sales were down 5% to 3.03 billion euros.

The results were particularly impressive given that sales of Zyrtec (cetirizine) sank 49% to 249 million euros. Its follow-up Xyzal (levocetirizine) brought in 173 million euros (+3%) from outside the USA, while sales in the latter country, where it is marketed along with Sanofi-Aventis, reached 39 million euros.

The main driver of growth once again was the antiepileptic Keppra (levetiracetam), although generic competition started in the USA at the beginning of November. Sales reached 1.27 billion euros, an increase of 23%, while the anti-tussive Tussionex (hydrocodone and chlorpheniramine) grew 29% to 147 million euros, benefiting from a more severe cough and cold season early in the year.

UCB added that Cimzia (certolizumab pegol), recently-launched for moderate to severe Crohn’s disease, had sales of 10 million euros, while its new antiepileptic Vimpat (lacosamide) brought in 2 million euros.

Chief executive Roch Doliveux said that UCB “delivered stable revenue and strong underlying profitability”, despite the Zyrtec patent expiry. He added that the launch of the SHAPE programme, which is intended to boost competitiveness and profitability by re-allocating 300 million within the next three years, is going well.

As a result of “the swift implementation” of SHAPE, recurring EBITDA for 2009 is expected to be greater than 680 million euros, above the previously-announced target of 650 million euros. Revenue is expected to reach approximately 3.3 billion euros as the effects of generic competition to Keppra kicks in, offset by newer products.