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Roche sales rise 4 percent in 2011

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Roche Diagnostics Corp.’s North American business, headquartered in Indianapolis, posted a 4-percent increase in sales last year on the strength of its fluid analyzer business unit, even though its diabetes sales fell.

The Switzerland-based company recorded 2011 sales of 2.4 billion Swiss francs, or $2.7 billion, according to data released Feb. 1.

Its professional diagnostic unit—which includes massive lab analyzers for hospitals and research labs, as well as smaller analyzers for use by physicians and patients—posted 836 million Swiss francs in sales, or $939 million.

Excluding the impact of fluctuating foreign exchange rates, that was an increase of 8 percent over the previous year.

The company introduced several new tests this year, most notably one for the BRAF protein in skin cancer patients, which was approved in August by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the same day a new drug, Zelboraf, was approved to treat the disease.

Such molecular diagnostics tests grew sales last year 8 percent as well, excluding the impact of foreign exchange rates, to 368 million Swiss francs, or  $413 million.

The disappointing sector for Roche was its diabetes business, which saw sales decline 4 percent, assuming constant currencies. They totaled 594 million Swiss francs, or $667 million.

Roche’s sales of blood glucose monitors suffered because of a two-year delay in winning approval for its latest technology, the Accu-Chek Aviva Nano. Earlier versions of the meter used an enzyme which in rare cases generated inflated blood-sugar readings because it did not distinguish properly between the sugars glucose and maltose.

FDA approval for the new version of the meter finally came in January, which should help Roche’s diabetes sales throughout 2012.

Roche does not release profit data by geographic region. Worldwide, its diagnostic division posted an operating profit of 2.2 billion Swiss francs, or $2.5 billion.

Total worldwide diagnostic sales last year were 9.7 billion Swiss francs, or $10.9 billion, an increase in constant currency of 6 percent over the previous year.

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