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AstraZeneca sales hit hard by generic competition

LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca's sales tumbled 21 percent in the second quarter, punished by generic competition to its best-selling antipsychotic medicine Seroquel and pressure on health spending in Europe.
/ Source: Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - AstraZeneca's sales tumbled 21 percent in the second quarter, punished by generic competition to its best-selling antipsychotic medicine Seroquel and pressure on health spending in Europe.

With patent losses rapidly eroding revenue and few new drugs to replace them, Britain's second-biggest drugmaker is throwing itself into deal-making to bolster the pipeline, following the early exit of its chief executive at the end of May.

Sales in the quarter were $6.66 billion, generating "core" earnings, which exclude certain items, down 12 percent at $1.53 a share, AstraZeneca said on Thursday.

Analysts, on average, had forecast sales in the quarter of $6.95 billion and earnings of $1.39 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

AstraZeneca reiterated its forecast for a fall in full-year core earnings to between $5.85 and $6.15 a share, against $7.28 in 2011.

Like other big drugmakers, the Anglo-Swedish group has also been hit by falling drug prices in Europe, where the euro crisis has prompted governments to take exceptional measures to curb spiralling healthcare costs.

Its larger rival GlaxoSmithKline was forced on Wednesday to revise down its 2012 sales outlook - predicting a flat year, rather than the hoped-for return to growth - largely as a result of the worsening European situation.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Chris Wickham)