Switzerland’s Roche this morning again raised its outlook for its pharmaceuticals unit after producing another set of better-than-expected first half financials, boosted by increasing sales from its central oncology portfolio.

Group sales were up 17% during the six-month period, versus last year [[21/07/04a]], to 16.6 billion Swiss francs. Operating profit surged 30% to 4.2 billion Swiss francs, while net income increased 4% to 3.2 billion francs.

The pharmaceuticals division led the pack, with sales rising 22% to 12.7 billion francs, which Roche says it three times faster than the global market average. Growth was primarily driven by the company’s burgeoning oncology franchise, which surged 36%, including not insignificant contributions from the newer offerings, such as Avastin (bevacizumab) and Tarceva (erlotinib). Avastin has seen cumulative sales top 1 billion francs over the four quarters since winning the US green light last February [[27/02/04a]], while Tarceva, which won US approval in November last year [[22/11/04d]], reached 145 million Swiss francs in the six months to the end of June. Sales of the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma treatment, MabThera (rituximab), climbed 23% to 1.9 billion Swiss francs, while the breast cancer agents, Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Xeloda (capecitabine), rose 27% to 851 million Swiss francs and 49% to 355 million Swiss francs.

Full-year pharmaceutical sales are expected to grow above the global market average at a double-digit rate, while the diagnostics division, which saw first half sales rise by 4%, is set to see growth in the single-digit range.