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By Ludwig Burger
(Reuters) -French healthcare group Sanofi's first-quarter adjusted earnings gained 16.2% on sales growth of its bestselling drug Dupixent and a rebound in demand for prescription-free drugs.
First-quarter business operating income, or adjusted earnings before interest and tax, rose to 3.07 billion euros ($3.23 billion), surpassing the average analyst estimate of 2.84 billion euros posted on the company's website.
Revenue from eczema and asthma treatment Dupixent jumped over 45% to 1.61 billion euros, beating an analyst consensus of 1.58 billion euros, on prescriptions in dermatitis, asthma and certain nasal infections.
The drugmaker added it would stop patient recruitment for clinical trials in Russia and Belarus, following Russia's attack on Ukraine, causing study results in the area of multiple sclerosis (MS) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to be delayed.
The timing of requests for regulatory approval, however, was unchanged, it added.
Other pharmaceutical companies including Roche have warned that the war is disrupting development of a new generation of MS drugs as the industry has come to disproportionately rely on eastern Europe for clinical trials.
Sanofi, Roche, Novartis and Merck KGaA are in a race to develop new MS drug candidates called BTK inhibitors.
COPD, in turn, could become yet another area of growth for Dupixent. Sanofi last month said peak annual sales of the drug, jointly developed with Regeneron, would be more than 13 billion euros, up from a previous target of more than 10 billion.
That excluded the potential use in COPD, sometimes called smoker's lung, where trial results are expected next year.
To counter the war's effect on clinical studies, Sanofi is transferring trial volunteers within Ukraine or into neighbouring countries as well as activating new clinical sites and recruiting more volunteer in other countries.
Contributing to the group earnings gain, Consumer Healthcare unit sales rose 19.3% to 1.33 billion euros, well above the 1.2 billion expected by the market, on a surge in cough remedies and painkillers.
Sanofi said on Thursday that it still expects 2022 adjusted group earnings per share to grow at a low double-digit percentage.
The French group added that it and partner GlaxoSmithKline, who fell behind in the race to launch a COVID-19 vaccine, were working on a next-generation booster vaccine for broad protection against all coronavirus variants of concern, with trial data expected during the second quarter of this year.
($1 = 0.9500 euros)
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; editing by Uttaresh.V and Jason Neely)