UPDATE 2-AstraZeneca hit by generic drugs and Crestor shortfall

Thu Apr 25, 2013 6:10am EDT
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* Q1 sales fall 13 pct to $6.39 bln vs consensus $6.51 bln

* EPS $1.41 vs forecast $1.31, helped by phasing of costs

* Top-seller Crestor weak in U.S., Canada and Australia

* Shares down 2.6 percent

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, April 25 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca's sales fell by a bigger-than-expected 13 percent in the first quarter as patent expiries took a heavy toll, underscoring the turnaround challenge facing Britain's second-largest drugmaker.

Much of the damage was caused by loss of exclusivity on antipsychotic medicine Seroquel and heart drug Atacand in many markets.

But the company's top-selling cholesterol fighter Crestor was also hit by generic competition in Canada, pricing pressure in Australia and worse-than-expected sales in the United States.

The poor performance suggests new Chief Executive Pascal Soriot has his work cut out to reverse the fortunes of the struggling drugmaker, despite some tentative signs of improvement in a few growth areas.   Continued...