By Ben Hirschler
LONDON (Reuters) - Roche
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The absence of last year's windfall profits from drugs and vaccines to tackle the H1N1 swine flu pandemic will be a common theme for several European drugmakers.
Business this year is back to normal, with Tamiflu sales seen down about 75 percent, dragging Roche quarterly pharmaceutical sales 9.2 percent lower, as European price cuts also take their toll, according to a Reuters poll of analysts.
Overall sales by the Swiss group, which is also the world leader in diagnostics, are seen falling 7.2 percent to 11.4 billion Swiss francs ($12.5 billion).
"The pharmaceuticals division will continue to show the impact of the austerity measures in Europe, lower use of Avastin in breast cancer following the partial removal of the indication in Europe and the recommendation of the FDA panel to remove the label in the USA, (and) the absence of pandemic sales for Tamiflu," Helvea analyst Karl-Heinz Koch said in a note.
Roche only gives sales figures at the quarterly stage, and investors will have to wait until next week for full results from other large drugmakers, including Eli Lilly
Across the industry, drug companies are grappling with a wave of patent expiries on former blockbuster medicines and a lack of new products to replace them.
The result has been retrenchment and a series of deals designed to bolster flagging pipelines, such as Sanofi's $20 billion-plus purchase of Genzyme, which closed on Friday.
Industry goliath Pfizer
So far, investors have liked what they have seen of Read's approach to cutting Pfizer's cost base and potentially divesting more units, and the stock has outperformed all its Big Pharma peers in 2011, with a gain of 18 percent.
Goldman Sachs analyst Jami Rubin expects Read to move rapidly to pare back the business with break-ups and spin-offs, as a debate among drug company executives about the right strategy for the future gains traction.
U.S. rival Merck, which is locked in an arbitration process with J&J over arthritis drugs Remicade and Simponi, has proved the laggard and has shed more than 5 percent since January 1.
(Additional reporting by Katie Reid in Zurich; Editing by Will Waterman)