Bayer's 150th anniversary celebrations have got off to a good start as the German drugmaker looks to five new products to drive growth.

Having posted a solid set of figures for the fourth quarter and 2012 (see link) at the end of last week at Bayer's annual press conference in Leverkusen, chief executive Marijn Dekkers (pictured) noted that earnings were hit by 1.2 billion euros taken in charges related to settling lawsuits concerning the Yaz/Yasmin (drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol) contraceptive franchise. The company has settled with about 4,800 claimants in the USA but there are 13,600 lawsuits pending.

However, Dr Dekkers was upbeat at the conference, based on his enthusiasm for the firm's new products, notably the anticoagulant Xarelto (rivaroxaban), which had sales of 322 million euros. However he made special mention of recently-filed riociguat for pulmonary hypertension and alpharadin for prostate cancer, as well as Stivarga (regorafenib) which has just got another approval, for advanced colorectal cancer. These four drugs, along with the ophthalmology agent Eylea (aflibercept), have a combined peak sales potential of more than 5.50 billion euros, Dr Dekkers claimed.

As is often the case with Bayer, a number of journalists queried whether its hybrid structure" of healthcare, crop science and materials is the best, Dr Dekkers, said that "if you've been around for 150 years and want to be around for another 150 years at least, you need a diversified model". Noting that other companies, notably Pfizer and Abbott, have spun off certain businesses, he said "we can do that too", but it only "feels good for a couple of days".

When asked by PharmaTimes World News about the successor to Joerg Reinhardt, who is stepping down as head of Bayer Healthcare to return to Novartis as chairman, Dr Dekkers noted that company veteran Wolfgang Plischke has stepped in as interim chief and knows the business very well so there is no great hurry. Longer term, the board is assessing both internal and external candidates for the permanent post.