GlaxoSmithKline saw its first-quarter sales leap nearly 20 percent as growth across all of its key businesses was given a significant helping hand by currency effects.

The UK-based drugs giant booked sales of £7.4 billion for the period, marking growth of 19 percent or 5 percent taking currency effects out of the equation.

Revenues from its Pharmaceuticals segment jumped 17 percent (4 percent at constant exchange rates [CER]) to £4.2 billion, reflecting solid growth of new products, driven particularly by HIV drugs Triumeq (dolutegravir/abacavir/lamivudine) with sales of £539 million (up 64 percent or 45 percent CER) and Tivicay (dolutegravir) with £301 million (up 60 percent or 41 percent CER), as well as respiratory therapy Relvar/Breo Ellipta (fluticasone furoate/vilanterol) with turnover of £204 million (up 84 percent or 61 percent CER).

Sales from the Vaccines unit leapt 31 percent (16 percent CER) to £1.2 billion, with a strong performance from Meningitis vaccines and higher demand for established vaccines, while those from Consumer Healthcare were up 16 percent (2 percent CER) to £2.0 billion, as strong performances across “power brands” was countered by the disposal of GSK’s Nigeria beverages business and more challenging conditions in international markets.

Adjusted operating profit (designed to reflect core performance by excluding unusual or non-operational items) was up 30 percent (9 percent CER) at £1.98 billion, while adjusted earnings per share settled at £25.0, marking a rise of 31 percent (9 percent CER) over the year ago period.

"This is a positive start for the year with sales growth in all three of our businesses and an improvement in the Group’s operating margin,” said the firm’s new chief executive Emma Walmsley. “Our clear focus is on commercial execution and preparation for near-term launches in Respiratory, HIV and Vaccines.”

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has reported another drop in sales for the first quarter as generic competition continued to eat into its profits, but remains hopeful of a turnaround this year as the impact of patent expiries starts to wane while its newly launched products gain traction.

Total revenues for the period came in at $5.4 billion, marking a fall of 12 percent or 10 percent at CER compared to the first quarter of last year.

Product sales slipped 13 percent (12 percent CER) to $4.8 billion, as revenue downturns for older products such as cholesterol drug Crestor (rosuvastatin; down 45 percent to $631 million) and respiratory product Symbicort (fluticasone furoate/umeclidinium/vilantero; down 10 percent to $677 million) were buoyed by increases for newer medicines including cancer therapy Faslodex (fulvestrant; up 13 percent to $214 million) and diabetes drug Farxiga (dapagliflozin; up 25 percent at $207 million).

The Cambridge, UK-based drug giant said reported operating profit dropped 12 percent (23 percent at CER) to $917 million, while core earnings per share inched up 4 percent (or down 4 percent at CER) to $0.99.

Commenting on the firm’s performance, chief executive Pascal Soriot said that the pipeline “continued to deliver in what we expect will be a pivotal year for AstraZeneca”.

“The Total Revenue performance reflected the transitional impact of recent patent expiries, which is expected to recede in the second half of the year. Importantly, we anticipate the significant progress of the pipeline to continue, including our Immuno-Oncology and targeted treatments. We will also maintain our commitment to drive efficiency across the company to support our efforts to bring new medicines to patients.”

AZ also reiterated its expectations for full-year revenue to decline by a low to mid single-digit percentage rate, and a low to mid-teens decline for core EPS.