Belgium’s UCB has seen its sales and earnings for the first six months of the year fall in part as a result of the impact of the US patent expiry on its antihistamine Zyrtec.

Operating profit was 224 million euros, down 27%, while revenues declined 11% to 1.69 billion euros, though Zyrtec (cetirizine) collapsed 56% to 132 million euros. Its follow-up Xyzal (levocetirizine) brought in 104 million euros from outside the USA, while sales in the latter country, where it is marketed along with Sanofi-Aventis, reached 19 million euros.

On the positive side, the main driver of growth once again was the antiepileptic Keppra (levetiracetam). Sales reached 597 million euros, an increase of 20%, while Neupro (rotigotine), the firm’s once-daily transdermal patch to treat early Parkinson’s disease, brought in 35 million euros.

UCB added that if the implementation of a new cold-chain storage and distribution system for Neupro is successful, it will be “available again to all patients in Europe by the first half of 2009." Earlier this year, the firm recalled the drug in the USA and some batches in Europe because of “a deviation from the approved product specification”. In addition, UCB said it will seek to initiate a dialogue in 2009 with the US health authorities on a potential re-launch there and “data to support this dialogue are currently being collected and evaluated”.

UCB getting into shape
The drugmaker also said it launched a new initiative, called SHAPE, intended to boost competitiveness and profitability “in the fast-changing biopharma world” by re-allocating 300 million within the next three years. The plan is expected to re-deploy UCB's resources “on its new growth drivers, more rapidly advance R&D efforts, and simplify its organisation”, the firm said, adding that further details will be released by the end of the summer.

UCB ended by saying that the integration of Schwarz Pharma, acquired in 2007, has been completed ahead of schedule. In the first half, it already achieved synergies of 305 million euros and for the full year they will reach 350 million euros.