As long as new drugs are coming out of the pipeline and being brought onto the market, pharmaceutical investing will continue to be quite a fun experience. Investors in shares of Swiss-based pharmaceutical company Roche Holding (OTC BB: RHHBY.PK) would agree, after the company today announced very strong growth for all of its top pharmaceutical products.

For the first nine months of the year, revenues were up 19% to $24 billion, with Roche's pharmaceutical division leading the way with 23% sales growth and $19 billion in sales. Roche's other division, medical diagnostics, grew 6% and accounted for the remainder of sales.

As other Fool analysts have noted, Roche makes investors work to figure out its financial metrics. While the company is more than willing to break down quarterly sales numbers for each of its top 20 products by region, it is unwilling to give the exact quarterly number for all of the company's marketed products and instead gives us only the nine-month sales numbers. Ugh!

Even without the quarterly numbers, it is still plain to see that Roche's ownership/alliance/partnership with biotechs Genentech (NYSE:DNA) and Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) is continuing to pay off. Roche's top-selling drugs are compounds that Genentech or Biogen developed, while Roche markets them.

Three such compounds -- Avastin, Herceptin, and Rituxan -- represented 36% of Roche's pharmaceutical sales for the first nine months of 2006. That works out to a nearly 30% growth as a total share of Roche's drug sales. Roche's reliance on these three drugs will only grow over time; they all are being tested in additional diseases or have been recently approved to treat follow-on indications.


YTD Sales (in Billions)

Growth Rate










*Assumes a 1.25 Swiss franc-to-U.S. dollar exchange rate.

The other big pharmaceutical news is the ramping up of sales for Roche's osteoporosis treatment, Boniva. The drug has been marketed since the second quarter of 2005 but is only now starting to bring in meaningful sales -- to the tune of $248 million for the first nine months of the year. Boniva's share of prescriptions in the osteoporosis-drug market is surging rapidly, and the drug now accounts for 15% of new prescriptions in the U.S. among the big three osteoporosis-fighting drugs.

Roche's sales growth should continue like this for a long time. The company currently plans to complete 10 phase 3 and five phase 2 clinical trials by mid-2007 and hopes to file for a whopping 16 drug approvals by the end of 2008.

For all of 2006, Roche is guiding for double-digit sales increases and for earnings per share to grow at a faster pace than they are now. You don't have to be Swiss to appreciate this kind of growth, and for investors patient enough to do tons of mind-numbing currency conversions and wade through non-standard financial reports, Roche may be a pharmaceutical company worth looking at.

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Fool contributor Brian Lawler does not own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has adisclosure policy.