Bristol-Myers Squibb has seen its third-quarter earnings triple thanks to the sale of its ConvaTec wound care unit and strong sales of the blockbuster bloodthinner Plavix.

Net income reached $2.58 billion, although excluding the $2 billion gain from the ConvaTec sale earnings fell 22% to $588 million, hurt by a $244 million loss on investments. However, group sales shot up 14% to $5.25 billion, while pharmaceutical turnover was up 13% (and up 18% in the USA) to $4.51 billion.

This was boosted by the strong performance of Plavix (clopidogrel), up 15% to $1.44 billion. Revenues from the antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole) shot up 34% to $564 million, while the firm's HIV drugs also made a solid contribution.

Sales of its Sustiva (efavirenz) franchise rose 24% to $294 million and Reyataz (atazanavir) was up 25% to $342 million. The cancer agent Erbitux (cetuximab), which B-MS tried to get full control of in its failed bid to buy ImClone BioSystems, slipped 1% to $185 million.

As for B-MS’ newer drugs, sales of Sprycel (dasatanib) for leukaemia rose 78% to $82 million, while Orencia (abatacept) for rheumatoid arthritis rose 98% to $119 million. Revenues from Baraclude (entecavir) for hepatitis B doubled to $144 million.

Chief executive James Cornelius said that the company’s success “gives us confidence that our biopharma strategy is the right one”. He added that “we’re moving forward to attain our goals, both commercially and with the advancement of our new product pipeline”

Speaking on a conference call, Mr Cornelius noted that B-MS’ strong balance sheet and cash position means that it intends to supplement its pipeline with some purchases. "We have a long list of companies, compounds, technologies we would like to acquire over the next several years,” he said, and “I'm confident we'll do it”.

B-MS also upped its full-year earnings forecast to $1.61-$1.66 from an earlier estimate of $1.36-$1.46 a share due to a $900-million pretax gain from selling its shares in ImClone to Eli Lilly.