Roche has posted a healthy set of financials for the first quarter, bolstered by continued growth of its cancer drugs and a spike in sales of the antiviral Tamiflu.

The Basel-based major says sales reached 11.59 billion francs, up 6% at constant exchange rates, while pharmaceutical revenues rose 7% to 9.17 billion francs. The top-selling drug was MabThera/Rituxan (rituximab), approved for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia as well as rheumatoid arthritis, contributed 1.70 billion francs in the oncology setting, an increase of 6%.

Sales of Herceptin (trastuzumab) for HER2-positive breast cancer rose 11% to 1.57 billion francs, while Avastin (bevacizumab) had sales of 1.53 billion francs (+11%). The chemotherapy Xeloda (capecitabine) edged up 1% to 383 million francs, while sales of Tarceva (erlotinib), for advanced lung and pancreatic cancer, were flat at 336 million francs.

As for Roche’s other products, the most striking performance came from Tamiflu (oseltamivir) which shot up 84% to 335 million francs. The rise was to a severe flu season in North America.

Lucentis (ranibizumab) for wet age-related macular degeneration inched up 1% to 393 million francs, while RoActemra/Actemra (tocilizumab) for rheumatoid arthritis, rocketed 32% to 238 million francs. Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a), for hepatitis B and C, fell 15% to 375 million francs. while the transplantation product CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) was up 4% to 229 million francs.

Roche also noted that Zelboraf (vemurafenib) brought in 84 million francs, adding that the drug "has established itself as the standard of care for BRAF mutation-positive metastatic melanoma" in the USA, the UK and Germany. Future growth is expected to come from reimbursement approval in markets such as France, Spain, Italy and Australia.

Chief executive Severin Schwan (pictured) said "we got off to a very good start in 2013 due to strong organic growth". He added that the launch of two breast cancer treatments - Kadcyla (trastuzumab/emtansine) in the USA and Perjeta (pertuzumab) in Europe - "will help to further improve our leading market position in oncology".