Generics send AstraZeneca reeling

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Drugs giant AstraZeneca yesterday reported plunging half-year sales and profits amid competition from cheaper generic drugs and challenging market conditions.

The UK’s second-biggest pharmaceuticals group said pre-tax profits in its core business dropped by a quarter to £3.3bn after revenues fell 16 per cent to £9bn.

AstraZeneca – whose chief executive David Brennan quit in June after shareholder pressure following profit warnings and poor performance – said nearly all the revenues fall came as a result of generic competition, including for its best-selling antipsychotic drug Seroquel. Western Europe, including the UK, was the group’s worst-performing region as it suffered from the eurozone crisis, with a 23 per cent fall in revenues in the six months to June 30.

The United States business also saw a 20 per cent slide in revenues.

China was the only country to see sales increase, up 17 per cent. Astra is slashing jobs and cutting costs to offset poor performance, having announced its intention to axe 7,300 roles in February.