- High-pressure environment
- Merger madness
ABOUT THIS COMPANY:
England's healing touch
One of the world's top pharmaceutical firms, London-based AstraZeneca specializes in treatments for gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and oncology therapeutic areas, with products in respiratory and inflammation, infection and neuroscience as well. Though the company makes medications for a variety of ailments, its best-selling drugs include acid reflux stopper Nexium, schizophrenia treatment Seroquel and the cholesterol reducer Crestor.
In addition to its core pharmaceutical business, AstraZeneca also owns subsidiary companies that operate in health-related markets. Aptium Oncology, formerly Salick Health Care, develops and manages outpatient cancer treatment clinics, mostly in the United States. The company's AstraTech subsidiary manufactures medical equipment.
From Z to AZ
AstraZeneca traces the main line of its ancestry back to 1926. That year, four British chemical companiesNobel Industries, United Alkali, British Dyestuffs and Brunner, Mond & Co.merged to form a new company called Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). The newly formed ICI focused on research, recruiting chemists, engineers and managers, and forming a funneling system with leading universities. Between 1933 and 1935, at least 87 new products rolled off the shelves, including polyethylene.
Fortunes declined in the aftermath of World War II as competition increased worldwide. In 1982, ICI shifted from bulk chemicals to high-margin specialty chemicals such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides. That business became Zeneca, which spun off from ICI in 1993. Good fortune shone upon Zeneca in 1995, when Glaxo was driven to sell a migraine drug candidate to complete its merger with Wellcome. Zeneca snapped up the then-unproven drug (Zomig) and enjoyed great success when the pill earned FDA approval two years later. In 1999 Zeneca completed its purchase of Sweden's Astra to form AstraZeneca.
Ulcer pain is AstraZeneca's gain
AstraZeneca's drug portfolio concentrates on five major treatment areas: gastrointestinal, oncology, cardiovascular, neuroscience, and respiratory and inflammation. The company's main gastrointestinal (GI) drugs are Nexium and Prilosec/Losec. Prilosec, introduced in 1989, was the first proton pump inhibitor (PPI) approved for the treatment of ulcers. The drug set sales records and became, at one point, the best-selling pharmaceutical in the world. AstraZeneca has sold more than 840 million Prilosec doses since the drug's launch.
No reflux for Nexium
2004 was the year of Nexium for AstraZeneca. Sales of the purple pill reached $3.9 billion, up 15 percent over the year before. Nexium is used to remedy a wide range of acid-related disorders, including heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). First launched in Sweden in 2000, the drug is now available in approximately 75 markets, including the United States, Canada and major European countries.
Nexium arrived just in time for AstraZeneca, as it lost patent protection for its previous acid-reflux medication Prilosec and stood to lose its No. 1 position in gastrointestinal therapeutic products. As patients opted for Nexium or generic forms,
U.S. sales of Prilosec plummeted 58 percent in 2004, to $366 million. In 2006 Prilosec had $1.4 billion in sales, while Nexium generated $5.2 billion in the same period.
Sequel to Nexium -- Seroquel
Seroquel, AstraZeneca's second best-selling drug behind Nexium, is an antipsychotic drug used to treat schizophrenia and acute manic disorders in bipolar disorder. In 2006, Seroquel sales increased 24 percent from 2005, to $3.4 billion. The drug is indicated for bipolar mania in 73 markets and for schizophrenia in 87 markets. In the United States, the drug has the additional indication for bipolar depression. Seroquel has also been found effective in the treatment of agitation associated with dementia in elderly patients living in long-term care facilities.
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