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AstraZeneca CEO hacks at pipeline to up profits

By staff reporter , 07-Nov-2007

AstraZeneca's CEO has said the company will stop research in a number of diseases as it continues to cut costs and restructure in the face of falling sales.

Having just announced net profits were down 15 per cent for the third quarter, David Brennan has said the company will no longer look for drugs to treat hypertension, multiple sclerosis(MS), Parkinson's, insomnia, addiction, neuroprotection in stroke, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and functional gastrointestinal disorders. Speaking at the Credit Suisse 7th Annual Pharma Conference, Brannan said that in order to create a more flexible research and development (R&D) organisation, that can bring better medicines to market faster, the company was fully implementing new disease focus areas. While the above indications are being dropped, AZ is planning to build up the amount of R&D in diabetes and obesity, pain (analgesia), infection, inhalation, and also increasingly use translational science in its cancer research. The news comes on the back of disappointing results for the third quarter as generics took at bite out of AZ's profits. As many of its biggest-selling drugs, such as ulcer therapy Nexium (esomeprazole) and the firm's cholesterol lowering pill Crestor (rosuvastatin) face more competition from generics, industry insiders are unsure if the pharma giant's pipeline is up to the task. Michael Leacock, an ABN Amro analyst told Bloomberg: "They've got short-term growth but the pipeline is uncertain,'' while Jeremy Batstone-Carr at Charles Stanley told them: "The problem AstraZeneca faces is that it has insufficient drugs in the pipeline to overcome patent losses.'' As part of the overhaul, AZ is also steadily increasing the number of biologicals in its pipeline - the firm is holding a 'Biologics Day' on 7 December 2007. It is also upping the amount of outsourcing it does as well as profit share deals, acquisitions and in-licensing. This has enabled AZ to start more a record number of first-in-man Phase I clinical trials this year, with 14 so far, compared to 12 in the whole of 2006. But Brennan also believes the quality is there, as well as the quantity, thanks to the firm's 'early termination strategy'.

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