Japanese drug heavyweight, newborn Astellas Pharma, posted a solid performance for the third quarter of its fiscal year, which ends March 31. Gross profit came in at 470 billion yen ($4bn), rising 5.2% from the 447.1 billion yen of combined earnings generated by Yamanouchi and Fujisawa before their $7.7 billion merger to create Astellas earlier this year.

Results were lifted by strong turnover of high-margin products during the period, with consolidated net sales rising 1.8% to 678.8 billion yen. Sales of ethical pharmaceutical business climbed 11.3 billion yen to 653.2 billion yen.

But, according to the firm, revenues during the period were significantly dented by extraordinary expenses, including: 11.9 billion yen from an extra shipment at the end of full-year 2004 due to the merger; 6.3 billion yen on the transfer of products; 5.8 billion yen from the divesture of the non-ethical pharmaceutical businesses; and 5.2 billion yen as a results of a change in the accounting method of process fee. Taking these out of the equation actually pushes organic sales growth up 5.2% to 701.2 billion yen.

Regionally, it was sales in Europe that turned in the best performance, jumping 10% to 152.6 billion yen, driven by strong growth for the immunosuppressant Prograf (tacrolimus) and over-active bladder therapy Vesicare (solifenacin), but also of Harnal (tamsulosin), for functional symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia.

In North America, a decline in demand for the atopic dermatitis treatment Protopic (tacrolimus ointment) was buffered by rising sales of the immunosuppressant Prograf as well as newer drugs such as Vesicare and the antifunal Mycamine (micafungin sodium), driving total revenues from the region up 4.9 billion yen to 107.5 billion yen.

The picture was less rosy in Japan, however, which really felt the effect of some of the extraordinary items mentioned above. Sales dropped 8.9 billion yen to 404.4 billion yen, though would have increased 13.5 billion yen after adjusting for special items, on strong growth of the blood-pressure regulator Micardis (telmisartan), the cholesterol-buster Lipitor (atorvastatin) and the hypnotic Myslee (zolpidem tartrate).

Meanwhile, the company revealed that it has filed a Marketing Authorisation Application with the European Medicines Agency seeking the all clear to market the immunosuppressant FK506 Modified Release Formulation (tacrolimus) for the prevention of organ transplant rejection, as well as an application in Japan to sell YM060 (ramosetron hydrochloride) for the treatment of diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome.