Bristol-Myers Squibb has posted narrower net losses for the fourth quarter as its antithrombotic Plavix returns to its previous high level of sales and despite a whole host of charges.

Net loss was reduced by 33.6% to $89 million or $0.43 per share, a reasonable result especially as the New York-based firm took some heavy charges. These included $292 million for the company's “productivity transformation initiative”, $230 million related to the acquisition of Adnexus and, interestingly, $275 million as a result of failed investments in auction rate securities.

On a far more positive note, group sales shot up 33% to $5.38 billion, while pharmaceutical revenues climbed 39% to $4.39 billion, helped by a major increase in sales of Plavix (clopidogrel). For the fourth quarter last year, the US market was still flooded with Apotex’ generic version of the drug but that effect has now disappeared and global sales of Plavix soared 177% to $1.37 billion and were up over 240% in the USA.

As for B-MS’ other products, sales of the antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole) were up 28% to $462 million, while the antihypertensive Avapro/Avalide (irbesartan) increased 7% to $328 million. The firm's HIV drugs also made a solid contribution, with revenues from its Sustiva (efavirenz) franchise rising 17% to $260 million and Reyataz (atazanavir) was up 31% to $334 million.

Regarding newer drugs, sales of Sprycel (dasatanib) for leukaemia, launched in June 2006, rose to $56 million from $14 million in the fourth quarter last year, while Orencia (abatacept) for rheumatoid arthritis brought in $75 million, up from $32 million in the same period last year. Revenues from Baraclude (entecavir) for hepatitis B reached $99 million, compared to $36 million in fourth-quarter 2006.

On the negative side, generic competition battered sales of cholesterol-lowerer Pravachol (pravastatin), which fell 38% to $90 million, while anticancer agent Taxol (paclitaxel) was down 12% to $114 million.

In terms of pipeline, the diabetes drug saxagliptin, partnered with AstraZeneca, and the melanoma treatment ipilimumab are expected to be filed with the US Food and Drug Administration in the first half of the year. However investors were not impressed with this, or the sales figures (which were a bit lower than analyst forecasts) and B-MS shares closed down just over 1% though they had fallen by over 6% during the day.

The firm also issued a disappointing earnings forecast for 2008 of $1.36-$1.46 a share, down from an earlier estimate of $1.44-$1.54 a share, due to the impact of selling its medical imaging business.