Japan’s third-largest drugmaker, newborn Astellas Pharma, turned in a stellar performance for the first half of its fiscal year. Profit soared 42% to 67.32 billion yen from the 47.35 billion yen of combined earnings generated by Yamanouchi and Fujisawa before their $7.7 billion merger to create Astellas earlier this year [[01/04/05c]].

Results were lifted by strong sales of high-margin products during the period, pushing turnover up 2.0 billion yen to 426.7 billion yen, as that coming from ethical pharmaceuticals swelled 4.7 billion yen to 409.8 billion yen.

Overall, revenues were driven by overseas sales in Europe, up 8.8 billion yen to 98.8 billion yen, and in the USA, rising 2.2 billion yen to 68.4 billion yen, with the group’s immunosuppressant Prograf (tacrolimus), the incontinence drug Harnal/Omnic (tamsulosin) and the overactive bladder therapy Vesicare (solifenacin) leading growth.

In Japan the picture was less rosy, with sales coming in at 250.1 billion yen, 10.5 billion yen lower than the comparable period of last year, as solid growth of mainstay drugs such as blood-pressure regulator Micardis (telmisartan) and the cholesterol-buster Lipitor (atorvastatin) failed to counter the effect of an extra shipment for a temporary stop of ordering/distribution systems following the merger at the end of the previous fiscal year, the group said.

But Astellas’ overall state of good health looks set to continue in the near term, going by the firm’s own interim and annual estimates, which call for net profit of 117 billion yen, nearly double the combined profit of 59.5 billion yen recorded for the last fiscal year which struggled with substantial merger-related charges. And net sales are expected to jump 22.9 billion yen to 885.0 billion yen, on continued growth of key products and mounting contributions from newer drugs.

Meanwhile, the company revealed that it is stopping development of its PPAR agonist FK614, currently in Phase II trials for diabetes, as the agent’s efficacy and safety profile were considered to be similar to those of existing PPAR agonists, thereby failing to provide any competitive advantages over rival drugs.