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RETROVIR (AZT) SALES CLIMB NEARLY 50% TO $ 211.8 MIL

Executive Summary

RETROVIR (AZT) SALES CLIMB NEARLY 50% TO $ 211.8 MIL. worldwide ((BRITISH POUND)134 mil.) in the fiscal year ended Aug. 26, making zidovudine Wellcome plc's biggest seller behind Zovirax, the company reported Nov. 16. Sales of the AIDS drug rose (BRITISH POUND)44 mil. from (BRITISH POUND)90 mil. ($ 142.2 mil. at the current exchange rate of 1(BRITISH POUND)= $ 1.58) in fiscal 1988, Chairman Sir Alfred Shepperd announced in his "Review of the Year." In the U.S., Retrovir volume "exceeded $ 100 mil.," the company reported. U.S. Retrovir sales were also over $ 100 mil. in fiscal 1988. Shepperd reported that the firm's American arm, Burroughs Wellcome, has filed a supplemental NDA for additional indications. The filing follows the release in August of a study conducted under the auspices of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases which showed AZT helped slow the progression to AIDS or severe ARC in asymptomatic HIV-infected and less seriously ill ARC patients ("The Pink Sheet" Aug. 21, p. 11). Addressing some of the criticisms from AIDS activist groups and others concerning pricing for AZT, Shepperd noted that at the current price and the 500 mg/day regimen used in the recent trials, the cost for AZT would be "approximately (BRITISH POUND)1,460 per year," ($ 2,306.80). "This would represent a reduction of more than 70% in cost of therapy from the original price" when AZT was launched in March 1987. Wellcome has dropped the price of AZT twice by 20% -- once in December 1987 and, most recently, in September 1989 ("The Pink Sheet" Sept. 25, T&G-5). There are no plans for another price reduction, Burroughs Wellcome said. Despite the price reductions, Rep. Waxman (D-Calif.) has indicated dissatisfaction with the current charge for the drug. Burroughs Wellcome has answered only two of the numerous questions on revenue and cost information requested in a September letter to the firm ("The Pink Sheet" Sept. 18, T&G-1), according to a congressional staffer, and Waxman has pressed his desire to receive a complete response. AZT generated 11% of Wellcome's human healthcare turnover, which totaled (BRITISH POUND)1,254 mil., or nearly $ 2 bil. in FY 1989. Zovirax (acyclovir) sales, which are more than double that of AZT, rose 36% to (BRITISH POUND)293 mil. ($ 462.9 mil.), contributing 23% of revenues. NDAs are pending with FDA for I.V. formulations of Zovirax for shingles and encephalitis. In Australia, where the shingles indication was approved in December 1988, total sales of Zovirax "more than doubled," Shepperd noted. The drug also reported strong sales growth in Japan, where it is a relatively new introduction and in other countries where it is approved for shingles, he added.

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