Some companies are beyond their worst stretch, but AstraZeneca is just starting. Some estimates suggest half of the $33 billion in annual revenue might disappear by 2016.
"No one is blind to the challenges that confront the pharmaceutical sector and this company, but the underlying strengths of AstraZeneca in delivering on its strategy are clear," Soriot said in a statement. "AstraZeneca will continue to make a positive difference to patients over the longer term, and I'm looking forward to playing my part in shaping that future."
AstraZeneca lost exclusivity in the United States for its antipsychotic drug Seroquel IR in March and the XR - extended release - version loses protection in 2017. The two versions combined for $5.8 billion in sales in 2011, according to company financial reports. But AstraZeneca also reported an 86 percent drop in quarterly revenue for Seroquel IR in the U.S. after the patent expiration in March.
The company's best selling drug, the cholesterol medicine Crestor, had $6.6 billion in sales in 2011, but loses protection in 2016. The second best seller, Nexium, for heartburn, had $4.4 billion in sales in 2011, but loses protection in 2014.
Last week, Bernstein Research analyst Tim Anderson said the company, with its dividends, had been friendly to stockholders, but wrote of the "company's uninspiring 5-year financial outlook."
Anderson also noted a "thinner late-stage pipeline and a mixed longer-term R&D track record," which is what Soriot will have to address.
Soriot replaces David Brennan, who retired June 1. Simon Lowth, who had been chief financial officer until serving as interim CEO, will return to handling finances.
Before working at Roche, Soriot was chief executive officer of Genentech, the San Francisco-based biologics company that was bought by Roche in 2010 after protracted negotiations. Soriot was involved in the integration of Genentech since then. Earlier, he worked for French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis.
AstraZeneca has laid off thousands of employees and sold subsidiaries in the last few years to stay afloat, but recently went on the offensive. The company spent about $3.4 billion to help develop and market the diabetes products made by Amylin, which was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb for about $7 billion.
Soriot will oversee the new addition and look for other opportunities.
"This is a key appointment at an important time for AstraZeneca," Leif Johansson, AstraZeneca chairman, said in a statement. "We are certain that Pascal's leadership qualities combined with his strategic thinking and relevant experience make him the right person to drive the company to success over the coming years."
Contact staff writer David Sell at dsell@ phillynews.com or 215-854-4506. Read his blog at www.philly.com/phillypharma and on Twitter @phillypharma.