AstraZeneca posted an 8% hike in sales to $6.28 billion in the fourth quarter of 2005, driven by a robust performance from its key products.

And operating profit leapt 26% to $1.64 billion in the quarter, as sales jumps from AstraZeneca’s five most important products dovetailed with cost cutting measures, said the firm in a statement.

For the full year, sales rose 12% to $24 billion, on the back of a 27% combined hike in turnover for gastrointestinal drug Nexium (esomeprazole), Seroquel (quetiapine) for schizophrenia, lipid-lowerer Crestor (rosuvastatin), Arimidex (anastrozole) for breast cancer and combination asthma treatment Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol).

David Brennan, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, described the firm’s financial performance in 2005 as ‘excellent’, but cautioned that it still has more to do to strengthen its pipeline in the wake of recent late-stage product disappointments.

Additional details on AstraZeneca’s results will be published tomorrow.