Bristol-Myers Squibb has posted a reasonable set of results for the first quarter which saw earnings come in ahead of analyst forecasts while sales growth for the bloodthinner Plavix and the antipsychotic Abilify were impressive.

Net income came in at $638 million, down 3%, while group sales increased 3% to $5.02 billion, and pharmaceutical turnover was also up 3% to $4.32 billion. Growth was driven by Plavix (clopidogrel), up 10% to $1.44 billion, while sales of Abilify (aripiprazole) shot up 30% to $589 million.

As for the firm's HIV drugs, sales of the Sustiva (efavirenz) franchise rose 7% to $292 million, and Reyataz (atazanavir) was up 8% to $322 million. Revenues from Baraclude (entecavir) for hepatitis B climbed 41% to $152 million.

As for B-MS’ newer drugs, Sprycel (dasatanib) for leukaemia rose 33% to $88 million, while Orencia (abatacept) for rheumatoid arthritis increased 43% to $124 million. On the negative side, however, the cancer agent Erbitux (cetuximab), which B-MS tried to get full control of in its failed bid to buy ImClone Systems, fell 12% to $164 million.

Chief executive James Cornelius said that the quarter saw B-MS make “outstanding strategic progress, taking decisive actions that shift our focus toward future growth as a biopharma leader”. He noted that deal that was recently signed to extend Abilify partnership with Otsuka Pharmaceutical in the USA to 2015 “gives us improved financial stability in the upcoming years, mitigating some of the volatility we would have otherwise experienced leading up to 2014”. It is around then that patent protection on Plavix will be lost.

Mr Cornelius added that B-MS is “maintaining a strong balance sheet and carefully managing costs”. He concluded by claiming that “we are delivering on our commitments to become a stronger, leaner and more effective enterprise.”

The company affirmed its 2009 full-year earnings guidance of $1.58-$1.73 per share.