German pharmaceutical and chemicals company Altana reported strong rises in 2004 sales and earnings yesterday helped by strong growth in its international business with double-digit gains in Asia and Latin America.

Overall, the group reported revenues up 8% to 3 billion euros and operating income up 10% to 637 million euros, in line with preliminary figures reported earlier this week that were well-received by analysts [[15/03/05f]].

Altana’s pharmaceuticals business has been driven by the fortunes of gastrointestinal drug Pantozol/Protonix (pantoprazole), and 2004 was no exception. Sales of this medicine by Altana reached 1.2 billion euros, up 9%, out of the firm’s 2.1 billion euros total pharma sales, up 7%. This is a good performance given that generic forms of rival drug omeprazole are now available in many countries, including the US, where Altana’s marketing partner Wyeth managed to increase sales of the drug by 7%.

But with the patent expiry for pantoprazole now on the horizon with expiries in Europe in 2009 and the USA in 2010, and patent litigation already ongoing in the US, a new drug is needed to take over the baton of growth at Altana. The company has high hopes that this will be Alvesco (ciclesonide), a novel corticosteroid for asthma that was approved in its first markets last year [[18/01/05b]] [[08/12/04d]]. Altana believes this drug, currently launched in the UK and Germany, has the potential to be a blockbuster medication. The US Food and Drug Administration issued an approvable letter for Altana’s US partner for Alvesco, Sanofi-Aventis, last November [[27/10/04a]].

Also in the pipeline is Daxas (roflumilast) a new drug for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, currently under regulatory review in Europe. This has been delayed somewhat in the USA due to slower-than-expected patient recruitment into trials [[29/10/04c]].