After a torrid couple of years, Schering-Plough has posted a set of financials that suggest the company is finally enjoying some sort of turnaround in its fortunes. The firm's first-quarter results show net income of $105 million, or $0.07 per share, compared to a loss of $73 million, or $0.05 per share, while sales climbed 21% to $2.37 billion.

S-P is certainly benefiting from Vytorin (ezetimibe/simvastatin) and Zetia (ezetimibe), the cholesterol drugs that it markets through a joint venture with Merck & Co. Turnover of the treatments leapt to $505 million, from $188 million in the same quarter last year, and S-P pocketed a considerable amount

of that figure, but its other drugs also fared well.

Sales of the anti-inflammatory Remicade (infliximab) were up 33% to $220 million, while the brain cancer treatment, Temodar (temozolamide), climbed 52% to $131 million. Also performing well was the oncology agent Caelyx (pegylated liposomal doxorubicin), up 27% to $43 million, while the allergy

products Clarinex (desloratadine) and Nasonex (mometasone), rose 11% to $144 million and 30% to $183 million respectively.

There were mixed fortunes for S-P's hepatitis C products, with sales of Peg-Intron (peg-interferon alfa-2b) increasing 14% to $170 million, thanks to strong sales in Japan, but Rebetol (ribavirin) revenues slumped 35% to $64 million, due principally to generic competition in the USA.

The results beat analysts' expectations comfortably, much to the delight of chief executive Fred Hassan, regarded in the pharmaceutical industry as the king when it comes to turning around struggling companies. He said that 'out of the severe challenges that we have faced, we are emerging stronger,' and spoke of the firm being well advanced in the 'stabilise-and-repair stages of our six-eight-year action agenda.'

The figures are indeed impressive but Mr Hassan added a note of caution, saying 'we also know that much work remains to be done. We are competing in markets that are highly competitive, seasonal and frequently volatile. Our industry environment is experiencing heightened competition, rapid changes

and a new caution among regulators, physicians and patients about the safety of medicines.'