Schering AG was being loved across European stock exchanges this morning after revealing a bumper crop of nine-month figures and raising its profitability goals for the full year 2005. Net sales grew 7% to just under 4 billion euros, while operating profit jumped 18% above the previous year’s figures and net profit soared 25% to 480 million euros.

The German firm has been helped by strong sales of its contraceptive Yasmin (ethinyl estradiol/drospirenone), which surged forward 34% to 421 million euros, comfortably taking the lead as one of Schering’s biggest drugs. Yasmin is now the best selling birth control pill worldwide and the portfolio looks set to be boosted by a low-dose oestrogen version, which won its first nod of approval in August [[19/08/05e]]. As well as this new 21-day Yasminelle regimen, it is also awaiting US approval for a 24-day regimen of YAZ - another drospirenone-containing oral contraceptive - although YAZ was issued an approvable letter by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2004, requesting additional clinical data. A further decision is anticipated later this year [[25/11/04d]].

Meanwhile, Schering’s multiple sclerosis drug, Betaferon/Betaseron (interferon beta-1b) put in a stalwart performance, with revenues up 9% to 627 million euros for the nine-month period. And its intrauterine delivery system, Mirena, grew 19% to 170 million euros.

With a successful few months behind it, Schering is now raising the bar again and, through a continued programme of cost-cutting, expects its full-year operating margin to stretch above 17%, from previous forecasts of 16.5%-17%. This means Schering will almost match next year’s profitability expectations of 18% this year instead [[22/07/05e]].

It’s a welcome piece of news for Schering, which has faced scrutiny over its new drugs pipeline, with investors jittery over a replacement for Betaferon to prop up the firm’s future. The MS drug is facing patent expiry in Europe in 2008 and Schering has had somewhat of a tumultuous year in terms of pipeline progress: just last week it reportedly said it would be delaying the filing of its bowel drug Leukine until 2007/8 because of a difficulty in recruiting patients into trials. The company had originally planned to seek approval of Leukine in the last quarter of 2006 in the Crohn’s disease indication [[08/03/04b]]. Then, earlier this year, Schering was also forced to delay its programme for a new colon cancer drug, code-named PTK-ZK, after it failed to impress in a clinical trial – pushing back the regulatory filing date from 2005 to 2007 [[17/05/05a]].