Under fire Astra chief steps down

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The boss of AstraZeneca yesterday announced he was stepping down as the drug maker slashed its full-year profit hopes following a series of patent setbacks.

David Brennan, who has been in the post for six years, will leave on June 1 after coming under fire for not acting sooner to tackle a shortage of blockbuster drugs as patents on existing best sellers expire.

The UK’s second biggest drugs maker has struggled in recent months after it lost patent cover on antipsychotic drug Seroquel and tests on ovarian cancer drug olaparib proved it to be ineffective.

The struggle at AstraZeneca was underlined by the results for the first three months of the year, which blamed a “loss of exclusivity” for a 38 per cent decline in pre-tax profits to £1.3bn and an 11 per cent drop in revenues to £4.5bn. The group lowered its target for full-year earnings per share.

Executive director and chief financial officer Simon Lowth will act as interim chief executive from June 1 until a permanent successor is in place.

Announcing his retirement, Mr Brennan said: “After more than six years as chief executive of this great company I have decided now is the right time to step down.”

He added: “I am confident that AstraZeneca will continue to have a positive impact on the lives of patients around the world and by doing so will deliver real value to our shareholders.” Mr Brennan was appointed to his current role in January 2006 and is one of the longest serving chief executives in the pharmaceutical sector.

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