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AstraZeneca hails recovery thanks to cancer drug sales

Joanna Bourke
Drugs firm AstraZeneca has 6,500 employees across five sites in the UK

Pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca on Thursday said strong demand for new cancer drugs has helped it return to growth.

The FTSE 100 firm said its oncology division saw sales jump 47% in the year to date. That included Lynparza sales surging to $438 million, driven by expanded use in the treatment of ovarian cancer and the approval for use in the treatment of breast cancer.

Product sales in the third quarter rose 9%, which is the benchmark the drugs maker uses for measuring the return to growth that it has been promising for this year.

Chief executive Pascal Soirot is under pressure to deliver growth after pledging, while fending off a 2014 takeover from US rival Pfizer, to produce annual sales of $45 billion by 2023.

He said: “Today marks an important day for the future of AstraZeneca, with the performance in the quarter and year to date showing what we expect will be the start of a period of sustained growth for years to come.”

Total third quarter revenues were down 13% to $5.3 billion. Profits were also lower.

Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “On the face of it these numbers are far from pretty. But scratch the surface and Astra is far from sickly. Its new drugs are flying off pharmacy shelves.”