AstraZeneca's products run the gamut from A (blood pressure drug Atacand) to Z (prostate and breast cancer drug Zoladex). One of the world's major pharmaceutical firms, AstraZeneca specializes in drugs for cardiovascular, metabolic, neurological, gastrointestinal, respiratory, oncology, and infection therapy areas. The firm's biggest sellers include cholesterol reducer Crestor, cardiovascular drug Brilinta, acid reflux remedy Nexium, and Symbicort for asthma. AstraZeneca also markets drugs that aim to treat high cholesterol, diabetes, pain, viral diseases, and various cancers. The company's products are sold in more than 100 countries.
In 2013 AstraZeneca sold its only non-pharma business, Aptium Oncology, which operates cancer treatment centers in the US. This came on the heels of selling its other noncore units Astra Tech (medical devices) and Dentsply Sirona (dental implant systems). The moves are part of the company's focus on streamlining its operations around core drug development and commercialization efforts in targeted therapeutic areas for the past few years as part of strategic restructuring efforts in the face of looming patent expirations and increasing generic competition.
Since 2010 the number of AstraZeneca's drugs with sales of more than $1 billion each dropped from 10 to seven: Crestor, Atacand, Nexium, Seroquel IR, Seroquel XR, Zoladex, and Symbicort. The firm has especially been feeling the effects of generic competition for some of its top sellers in the US (the company's largest market), where revenues were down due to patent losses and increased generic competition. Established markets Western Europe and Canada also saw double digit drops as Crestor lost patent protection in Canada and sales of Seroquel IR, Nexium, Arimidex and Meronem decreased.
AstraZeneca has had several successes in its R&D organization as it works to keep the bestsellers coming, and sales of newer drugs such as Crestor and Symbicort have helped sustain overall revenues for the company. During 2014 it received a dozen approvals for new molecular entities or major life cycle management projects in major markets. With a pipeline of about 135 drugs in various development stages, it also looks for acquisitions to boost its product development.
The company has been focusing efforts on respiratory, inflammation, and autoimmunity therapies, where it has eight products in phase III or registration status. In 2015 it acquired rights to Almirall's respiratory business, and it plans to buy Actavis' branded respiratory business in the US and Canada.
AstraZeneca has operations in Europe, North America, Central America, South America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia/Pacific region. It manufactures products in 16 countries.
Growth in China and other emerging markets (including Russia, Africa, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile) is key for AstraZeneca's as it sees sales dip in established markets due to patent expiration in its older medications.
The Americas accounted for about 50% of AstraZeneca's revenue in 2014. Sales in emerging markets were up 8% in 2013 and 12% in 2014 thanks to sales growth in China and Russia. China was really the bright spot with a 22% increase in sales on the strength of the company's cardio and respiratory drugs. As a result, the firm is increasing investments in emerging markets; for instance, it built a $200 million manufacturing plant to meet market needs in China.
Sales and Marketing
The company markets its products to physicians through sales and marketing teams who are active in more than 100 countries. It typically sells through local marketing companies, which it owns, as well as through distributors and local representative offices.
AstraZeneca saw revenue declines in 2012 and 2013 as a result of patent losses. Despite these losses, it has managed to stay one step ahead of the game through its balanced growth and cost-control efforts. In 2014 revenue increased by just over 1% to $26.1 billion; driving that growth were the successes of such products as Brilinta/Brilique, its diabetes and respiratory franchises, Farxiga/Forxiga, and the Bydureon Pen (which was launched in the US). The company also grew in its emerging markets operations, with China (its second-largest market) increasing 22% that year. Pricing pressures in the region put a bit of a damper on those increases, though.
The US saw a 4% increase, largely due to the firm's diabetes products as well as growth in the Symbicort and Brilinta lines. However, this was offset by declines from sales of Nexium, Seroquel IR, and Synagis. European revenues also slipped in 2014, primarily as a result of dropping sales of Atacand and Seroquel XR, both of which are contending with generics in the region.
Although revenue saw a modest rise in 2014, net income continued its downward trend that year, falling 52% to $1.2 billion as a result of R&D expenses surrounding the company's late-stage pipeline. Other factors cutting into profits were selling, general, and administrative costs as AstraZeneca focuses on its growth platforms. Cash flow from operations fell 5% to $7.1 billion.
After a number of strategic moves including workforce reductions, exits from certain markets, an overhaul of its IT organization, and management changes, AstraZeneca is on track to return to growth by 2017. The company introduced a sixth growth platform -- oncology -- adding to its focus on respiratory, inflammation, and autoimmunity; and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
The firm is making a concerted effort to strengthen its industry position ahead of patent expirations by overhauling its R&D organization, including by building up its late-stage drug development pipeline through internal research and development, acquisitions, and collaborations. Through its MedImmune unit, it is also building up its R&D programs for new biologic medicines, which enjoy longer terms of patent protection. In 2014 its Lynparza was approved for ovarian cancer treatment in the US and Europe, and its Movantik tablet (constipation) and Myalept (leptin deficiency) products were approved in the US. The company also launched Nexium Direct, which delivers Nexium directly to the homes of eligible patients.
As the company faces losing exclusivity in the US for its cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor, AstraZeneca is looking to boost its cardiovascular disease portfolio. It bought California-based biotech ZS Pharma for $2.7 billion in late 2015. That purchase adds ZS Pharma's ZS-9 candidate, which is under review in the US for the treatment of hyperkalemia (high potassium levels in the blood).
At the same time, AstraZeneca is streamlining the pipeline to concentrate on the most promising research areas by reducing the number of disease targets within its six core therapy areas (cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, infection, neuroscience, oncology, and respiratory/inflammation). For example, it announced plans to spin off its antibiotics division in early 2015. It also agreed to sell cancer drug Caprelsa to Sanofi for up to $300 million. These efforts have resulted in the consolidation of some R&D facilities.
In emerging markets, primarily China, Russia, and Brazil, AstraZeneca has concentrated on delivering new products and investing in marketing and sales. In 2014, the company's facility in Taizhou, China, delivered its first product, while its facility in Vorsino, Russia, is nearing regulatory validation.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Along with discovering its own new drugs and collaborating with its pharmaceutical cohorts, AstraZeneca also expands its R&D pipeline through occasional acquisitions. In 2016 it took a majority (55%) stake in Acerta Pharma, gaining access to that firm's acalabrutinib candidate for the treatment of B-cell cancers. In late 2015, it acquired biotech firm ZS Pharma, adding that firm's ZS-9 candidate for the treatment of hyperkalemia. The company acquired Amylin, buying out the partnership, in early 2014. Also that year it acquired the rights to Almirall's respiratory franchise and inhalation device subsidiary. It bought out Bristol-Myers Squibb's share of the companies' diabetes alliance, gaining ownership of the intellectual property and global rights for the development, manufacturing, and marketing of the related products which include Onglyza, Kombiglyze XR, Farxiga, and Byetta.
In 2013 AstraZeneca focused expansion efforts on the cardiovascular market. It purchased AlphaCore, a US-based private biotech firm; and purchased Omthera, which is working to develop heart medicines based on omega-3 fatty acids, for some $443 million.