Third-quarter sales at AstraZeneca rose 13% to $6.16 billion, led by cholesterol drug Crestor and four other key products.

Ongoing cost-cutting measures helped operating profit climb 24% to $2.1 billion, with earnings per share up 34$ to $0.87, said AstraZeneca, which raised its financial targets for the year to

Crestor (rosuvastatin) sales climbed 62% to $536 million, claiming 9.6% of the US market for statins, while gastrointestinal drug Nexium (esomeprazole) was up 13% to $1.28 billion. Seroquel (quetiapine) for schizophrenia advanced 19% to $848 million, breast cancer drug Arimidex (anastrozole) rose 24% to $382 million, and combination product for asthma – Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol) – came in at $276 million, up 11%.

But the demise of another product candidate in the form of NXY-059 for stroke (see related story today) took the shine off the results, coming as it did after AstraZeneca has experienced a number of late-stage product failures.

The company’s pipeline is looking increasingly thin at a time when it is facing the threat of generic challenges to drugs such as Toprol XL (metoprolol), Seroquel and Nexium, as well as patent expiries for Arimidex (in 2009) and Casodex (bicalutamide) for prostate cancer in 2008.