Another robust quarter for US drugmaker Schering-Plough drove the firm’s share price up nearly 6%, as a year-ago loss was transformed into a $237 million profit, on the back of strong gains for the cholesterol-lowering products the firm sells alongside joint venture partner Merck & Co.Sales were up a respectable 11% to $2.82 billion - the seventh consecutive quarter of double digit growth - driven by gains for in-house products Nasonex (mometasone furoate monohydrate) for allergies and arthritis drug Remicade (infliximab), up 21% to $242 million and 31% to $307 million, respectively. Peg-Intron for hepatitis C had a good quarter, gaining 25% to $226 million with the increase coming mainly from sales in Japan, although Schering-Plough said this effect would tail off as the number of new patients receiving the drug moderates.While revenues from the joint venture products Vytorin (ezetimibe and simvastatin) and Zetia (ezetimibe) are not booked as sales, the company said its ‘equity income’ from the joint venture doubled to $355 million compared to a year ago. Overall sales of the two drugs were $958 million, an 86% increase year-on-year.Schering-Plough said it expects combined sales of Zetia and Vytorin to continue growing in the second half of the year, despite competition from cheaper generic forms of Merck's older Zocor (simvastatin) product, which lost patent protection on June 23.As the midway point in Schering-Plough’s turnaround plan is reached, the company is still seeing its bottom line benefiting from cost-cutting measures and in particular the streamlining of its manufacturing operations, including the ongoing programme to phase out manufacturing at facilities in Puerto Rico and New Jersey.But Schering-Plough’s chief executive, Fred Hassan, warned that there is currently a disproportionate short-term focus on cost reduction and said that ‘this is not always in the best interests of patients’."In the long term, successful health care organisations will be those that focus on and compete based on improving the health of their member patients,” he said. Vytorin has made great headway in the marketplace because it brings more patients to their cholesterol treatment targets than rival products such as Pfizer’s Lipitor (atorvastatin) and AstraZeneca’s Crestor (rosuvastatin), added Hassan on a conference call.

Top 10 products by first half 2006 sales

  1. Remicade $585m +29%
  2. Nasonex $471m +23%
  3. Peg-Intron $423m +20%
  4. Clarinex/Aerius $386m +10%
  5. Temodar $334m +21%
  6. Claritin Rx $205m -3%
  7. Rebetol $164m +6%
  8. Integrilin $162m +3%
  9. Intron A $124m -17%
  10. Avelox $138m +17%
Source: Schering-Ploughre>