Company maintains its outlook for full-year 2012 sales.

Roche is reporting a 1% year-over-year dip in group sales to CHF 11.027 billion (about $12.05 billion) during the first quarter when the value of the Swiss Franc was accounted for. Nonetheless, the company says it is still on track to meet its sales targets and profit outlook for this year and that it is still interested in acquiring Illumina despite continued resistance from the sequencing giant.

In results released this morning, Roche trumpeted a 2% rise in group sales as measured in constant exchange rates (1% increase in U.S. dollars) as well as stronger sales increases for several of its units. Roche’s pharmaceutical sales dipped 1% year-over-year in Swiss Francs, to CHF 8.624 billion ($9.449 billion) from CHF 8.712 billion ($9.545 billion) in Q1 2011. But that performance amounted to a 2% increase under constant exchange rates. Growth was driven by its oncology portfolio and the success of individual drugs that include Pegasys for hepatitis C and Actemra/RoActemra for RA.

“Overall, these are a very solid set of 1Q 2012 sales numbers,” Jeffrey Holford, an analyst with Jefferies & Co. who favors buying Roche stock, wrote today in a note to investors cited by Bloomberg News.

Roche’s oncology portfolio includes Roche’s three best-selling drugs: MabThera/Rituxan, which generated CHF 1.605 billion ($1.759 billion), up 7% over Q1 2011; Herceptin, CHF 1.428 billion (almost $1.566 billion), also up 7%; and Avastin, up 1% at CHF 1.385 billion (almost $1.519 billion).

Herceptin grew at an even stronger 11% year-over-year in the U.S., to CHF 405 million ($444 million), compared with an 8% gain for MabThera/Rituxan at CHF 752 million ($824) and a flat result for Avastin at CHF 634 million ($695 million). This was the first full quarter since FDA revoked Avastin’s 2008 accelerated approval of the drug in combination with paclitaxel for Her2 negative metastatic breast cancer.

Pharmaceuticals finished slightly stronger when results for influenza medicine Tamiflu were excluded, showing a 3% CER increase and a flat year-over-year result in Swiss Francs. Tamiflu sales have slipped in recent years due to competition from generics and other branded flu treatments in Europe and the U.S.

Tamiflu is still Roche’s 7th best selling medicine, generating CHF 187 million (about $205 million) during Q1, though sales at constant exchange rates show a 24% drop worldwide and a 56% drop in the U.S., which accounted for about 40%, or CHF 74 million ($81.1 million), of sales. Tamiflu’s only strong submarket is Japan, where the drug showed an 85% sales leap to CHF 91 million ($99.75 million).

Roche’s diagnostics unit fared better, with overall sales rising 4%, led by year-over-year jumps for molecular diagnostics (8%), professional diagnostics (9%), and tissue diagnostics (18%). Sales, however, were lowered by a 7% decline in diabetes diagnostics, which Roche blamed on lower reimbursement in key European and other markets: “Roche expects the launch of key diabetes care products in 2012 to create new growth momentum,” the company said in a statement.

The company also maintained its full-year outlook for 2012: low- to mid-single digit increases for group and pharmaceuticals sales; “above the market” growth for diagnostics; and high single-digit growth in core earnings per share.

Roche says that its optimism for 2012 reflected in part positive regulatory decisions during Q1, as the company won approval for two new, first-in-class skin cancer medicines: The EU approved Zelboraf for melanoma and received Roche’s marketing application for a new subcutaneous dosage form of Herceptin, while FDA approved Erivedge for basal cell carcinoma and gave priority review status for pertuzumab for Her2 positive breast cancer.

The pharma giant also showed it was still interested in pursuing Illumina, despite the sequencing firm’s rebuff of past overtures. Roche raised its offer for all outstanding publicly held shares of Illumina to $51 per share, up from the initial $44.50 per share. Illumina rejected the $6.7 billion offer and is also fighting off a Roche effort to seat its own nominees on the sequencing company’s board.

To read the story from Bloomberg News, click here.

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