German drugmaker Schering has said it expects to reach its target of an operating margin of 18% in 2006, on sales expectations trimmed slightly to 5.5 million from 5.8 million euros.

In a conference call, Schering chairman Dr Hubertus Erlen said that the company was about to enter a phase of growth in the coming years at a time when its peers in the pharmaceutical industry would see growth hampered by a less forgiving operating environment, particularly with regard to regulatory oversight.

Beyond 2006 Schering expects its operating margin to improve further, although this will come not only from organic growth but also cost-cutting measures. The company’s chief financial officer, Joerg Spiekerkoetter, said these measures would include a reduction in the number of pharmaceutical production sites to 12 from 24.

Erlen also said that the cost savings would free up more money for acquiring new products or companies that fit with Schering’s core focus on gynaecology and andrology, diagnostic imaging, specialised therapeutics and cancer drugs.

Updating on the products that will help deliver this growth, Schering said it had filed additional data for its oral contraceptives Angeliq and Yaz – both based on ethinyl estradiol and drospirenone – with the US Food and Drug Administration, which sent the company an “approvable” letter for both drugs last year. A verdict on both applications is expected before year-end, according to the company.

Meanwhile, the diagnostic imaging business could be bolstered by approval in Europe of Vasovist (gadofosveset trisodium; MS-325), a vascular imaging agent, before the end of the year. And in oncology, Phase III results on novel colorectal cancer drug PTK/ZK should be available next year.