Belgian biopharmaceutical company UCB posted a 24% rise in revenues last year on the back of strong growth for its epilepsy drug Keppra, particularly in the USA, and allergy treatment Xyzal in Europe.

Net profit also came in at a higher-than-forecast 755 million euros, including a capital gain of 475 million euros on the sale of UCB’s surface specialties unit in March 2005, with operating profit for the core biopharmaceutical business up 37% to 270 million euros.

Total revenues came in at $2.34 billion euros, at the leading edge of analyst estimates, with Keppra growing 34% to 560 million euros and consolidating its position as the leading epilepsy drug in the US market and UCB’s top-selling product.

UCB’s allergy franchise also moved in the right direction, Xyzal (levocetirizine) rising 21% to 126 million euros, despite a weak allergy season in Europe and no contribution from the USA, where UCB is planning to file for approval of the drug in the middle of 2006.

Xyzal’s parent drug Zyrtec (cetirizine), partnered with Pfizer, had global sales of 1.5 billion euros, 560 million of which were booked by UCB. But in an interesting development UCB chief executive Roch Doliveux said that Pfizer was unlikely to be the partner for Xyzal in the USA, saying the world’s number one drugmaker has ‘chosen another route’ for its allergy products.

UCB is looking ahead to another strong sales performance in 2006, once again driven by Keppra, while 2007 looks set to be a bumper year as it could be in a position to launch its recently-filed Crohn’s disease drug Cimzia (certolizumab pegol; CDP870) and Xyzal in the USA.

Profit this year will be in line with 2005, said UCB, as a result of product launch costs and pre-launch expenses for Cimzia.