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AstraZeneca Q3 sales weak as it waits for medicine to work

LONDON, Nov 9 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca's drug sales fell 3 percent in the third quarter, hit again by generic competition to former blockbusters like cholesterol pill Crestor, as it looks to new cancer treatments to revive its fortunes.

Total revenue, however, rose 9 percent to $6.23 billion, helped by a $997 million payment from Merck & Co, which struck a cancer drug partnership deal with the British group in July.

Core earnings per share (EPS), which exclude some items, dropped 15 percent to $1.12. AstraZeneca said it expected 2017 core EPS performance to be "towards the favorable end of the guidance range of a low to mid teens percentage decline."

Industry analysts, on average, had forecast quarterly revenue of $5.95 billion and earnings of $1.04, according to Thomson Reuters data. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Susan Fenton)