Virus tests save Roche as drug sales slide

Virus tests are proving to be a saving grace for Roche.

The Swiss pharmaceuticals giant saw drug sales slide in the first quarter.

They were down 9% over the period.

Revenues were hit as the global health crisis limited visits to hospitals and health centers.

But it was a different story on virus testing.

Sales at the firm's diagnostics division leapt by 55%.

That almost offset the slump in shipments of drugs.

Overall, Roche first-quarter sales dipped 1% to 14.9 billion swiss francs - or about 16.3 billion dollars.

Last year Chief Executive Severin Schwan was confident that drug sales would soon normalise.

But now he says the lingering crisis continues to have a negative impact.

Even so, the company still expects current-year sales growth in the low- to mid-single-digit range.

Core earnings are seen rising at a similar rate.

Roche shares rose over 1.5% in early trade on Wednesday (April 21).