UK drug giant GlaxoSmithKline yesterday reported a better-than-expected first quarter 2006 on the back of strong vaccine revenues, up 44% to £366 million, and another pleasing performance from its number one asthma offering Seretide/Advair (fluticasone plus salmeterol), which rose 12% to £816 million – proving that a black-box warning need not always be an impediment to growth.

Overall, operating profit was boosted 15% at constant exchange rates to almost £2.2 billion, driven by a 10% jump in turnover to £5.8 billion. The firm’s pharmaceuticals division was by far and way the major contributor to this figure, up 10% to £5 billion, with almost half of this attributed to GSK’s key growth drivers – including Seretide/Advair, its Avandia (rosiglitzone) diabetes franchise (up 24% to £384 million), and the cardiovascular agent Coreg (carvedilol; up 53% to £225 million).

And the news looks hopeful for the full-year 2006 and beyond, with analysts excited over the cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix – recently filed in Europe and expected to be submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year – and the breast cancer agent Tykerb (lapatinib). The latter will be filed ahead of expectations in the second half of this year in both Europe and the USA after a Phase III trial was halted early on good data, with a launch forecast for 2007, marking an upturn in the firm’s traditionally weak cancer portfolio. Coming up behind is eltrombopag for low blood platelet counts, pazopanib for cancer, casopitant for nausea and vomiting and H5N1 vaccine to combat avian flu, all of which have entered late-stage development.

JP Garnier, GSK’s chief executive, said the firm expects full-year earnings per share growth in the region of 10% in CER terms – although analysts are broadly anticipating this figure will be boosted later in the year.

Shares in the company rose almost 4% during trading on the London Stock Exchange yesterday.