Roche has reported flat sales (at constant exchange rates) for the first nine months of 2011, hit by the strength of the Swiss franc and reduced revenues from its cancer blockbuster Avastin.

The Basel-based major says sales reached 31.12 billion francs (about $34.57 bilion), while pharmaceutical revenue dipped 1% to 24.40 billion francs. The firm’s top-selling drug in the quarter was MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab), for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia as well as rheumatoid arthritis. It contributed 4.42 billion francs, an increase of 7%, although Avastin (bevacizumab) had sales of 3.94 billion francs, down 8%, due to "regulatory and reimbursement uncertainty regarding the metastatic breast cancer indication", especially in the USA.

Sales of Herceptin (trastuzumab) for HER2-positive breast cancer rose 8% to 3.90 billion francs, while the chemotherapy Xeloda (capecitabine) grew 6% to just over 1 billion francs. Sales of Tarceva (erlotinib), for advanced lung and pancreatic cancer, also increased 6% to 921 million francs.

As for Roche’s other products, Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a), for hepatitis B and C, fell 5% to 1.05 billion francs. Sales of the antiflu drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir) predictably fell 57% to 301 million francs. The transplantation product CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) fell 12% to 770 million francs, while combined sales of Roche’s NeoRecormon and its Chugai unit’s Epogin (epoetin beta), for anaemia, declined 22% to 690 million francs. The osteoporosis drug Boniva/Bonviva (ibandronic acid) was down 19% to 551 million francs.

On the positive side, US turnover of Lucentis (ranibizumab) for wet age-related macular degeneration jumped 26% to 1.13 billion francs, while RoActemra/Actemra (tocilizumab) for rheumatoid arthritis, rocketed 86% to 433 million francs. Revenues from Mircera (methoxy polyethylene glycol-epoetin beta), for the treatment of anaemia associated with chronic kidney disease, rose 45% to 237 million francs.

Chief executive Severin Schwan described the results as solid, saying "we’re on track to achieve our targets for 2011". He made reference to the successful US launch of its new melanoma drug Zelboraf (vemurafenib) and the diagnostic cobas BRAF test which has "strengthened our leading position in personalised healthcare".