AstraZeneca drops plans for Covid jab approval in US

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Drugs giant AstraZeneca has abandoned plans to seek approval for its Covid-19 jab in the US as it revealed falling sales of the vaccine worldwide.

The Anglo-Swedish group, which developed the Vaxzevria vaccine with Oxford University, revealed in its third-quarter results that it would drop an application with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US and instead focus its efforts elsewhere globally, including for its use as a booster.

The group’s figures showed that demand is waning for the Covid jab – which was one of the first to be developed worldwide – with sales of Vaxzevria dropping to 173 million US dollars (£152 million) in its third quarter from 1.05 billion US dollars (£922 billion) a year earlier.

AstraZeneca had planned to go for full approval from the FDA, but the firm’s boss said the application had become overly complicated and “very large”.

The group said: “As the primary vaccination needs of the US are being met already, AstraZeneca has decided that it will not submit a biologics licence application for Vaxzevria in the US.

“The company will continue to focus its efforts on ensuring availability of Vaxzevria elsewhere around the world, including submissions for its use as a booster.”

The firm has mostly distributed its Covid vaccine on a not-for-profit basis, and it has been widely used in developing countries, with three billion doses sold worldwide so far.

While demand for the jab is tailing off, its other coronavirus treatment – a preventive antibody therapy called Evusheld – is seeing solid sales.

It notched up 537 million US dollars (£471 million) in sales of Evusheld, which is targeted at people with weakened immune systems, in the third quarter after gaining approval for emergency use in the US in December last year.

AstraZeneca’s results on Thursday also showed the group increasing its earnings outlook thanks to a better-than-expected performance so far this year.

It said core earnings per share could grow by a “high 20s to low 30s percentage”, against its previous guidance of a mid-to-high 20s increase thanks to strong demand for drugs such as Farxiga for diabetes and Tagrisso for cancer.

The company saw third-quarter pre-tax profits jump to 922 million US dollars (£810 million) from losses of 2 billion US dollars (£1.8 billion) a year ago on better-than-expected revenues of 11 billion US dollars (£9.7 billion), up 19% year on year.

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