Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, currently jostling for position with Sandoz to claim the title of world’s largest generics company, took a step further towards its goal with a 24% rise in first-quarter revenues and a return to profit.

The Israeli company said its net profit came in at $259 million dollars, or $0.38 per share, reversing a net loss of $428 million in the first quarter of 2004 caused by costs related to its acquisition of Sicor [[26/01/04f]].

Revenues totalled $1.3 billion and were driven by a healthy 23% increase in the sales of Teva’s branded multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone (glatiramer acetate), which amounted to $256 million and made it the market leader for new and total MS prescriptions in the US, according to the firm. Copaxone, along with other drugs such as the beta interferons, has benefited from the withdrawal of Tysabri (natalizumab), Elan and Biogen Idec’s MS treatment, earlier this year [[01/03/05a]].

Also contributing to the sales growth were a number of new generic drugs, including a version of Merck & Co’s osteoporosis drug Fosamax (alendronate), which was launched in the UK. Overall, Teva’s pharmaceutical sales rose 27% to $1.18 billion in the quarter, while sales of active pharmaceutical ingredients to third parties dipped fractionally to $118 million from $119 million and the veterinary business was flat at $5.2 million.

The company’s growth rate has dropped somewhat compared to 2003 and 2004, when sales rose 30% and 46%, respectively [[17/02/04e]] [[15/02/05b]], but CEO Israel Makov said this was due to a fall in the number of drugs coming off patent in the US in 2005. He suggested that the number of expirations would pick up once again in 2006, and highlighted generic Pravachol (pravastatin) – the cholesterol-lowerer originated by Bristol-Myers Squibb - as a major upcoming growth opportunity for the company.