Bristol-Myers Squibb has been setting out its plans to cope with the earnings gap that will appear when the blockbuster anticoagulant Plavix goes off-patent.

At a meeting with the investment community in New York, the company has given a higher-than-expected earnings forecast for 2013, a year after Plavix (clopidogrel), which is partnered with Sanofi-Aventis loses patent protection in the USA. B-MS says earnings per share in 2012 will be at least $1.95, some way above analyst estimates.

However, that figure is way down from the $2.15-$2.25 EPS forecast this year, which goes to show how much the loss of Plavix will hurt; B-MS’ fourth-quarter sales reached $5.03 billion and the blood thinner made up $1.62 billion of that.

Current products will continue to drive growth for the next few years, notably the antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole), the HIV drugs Sustiva (efavirenz) and Reyataz (atazanavir), Baraclude (entecavir) for hepatitis B, Sprycel (dasatanib) for leukaemia, Orencia (abatacept) for rheumatoid arthritis and Onglyza (saxagliptin), the type 2 diabetes drug partnered with AstraZeneca. However, B-MS also has high hopes for five investigational drugs that it expects to launch by 2012.

First up is belatacept, which has just been recommended for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration’s Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee for the prevention of acute rejection at the time of initial kidney transplant. The others are led by apixaban, an anticoagulant being developed with Pfizer, which is seen as a potential replacement for warfarin. It will first be filed this year for the prevention of venous thromboembolisms and later approvals will be sought for atrial fibrillation and acute coronary syndrome.

After that, brivanib is in Phase III for the treatment of hepatocelluar carcinoma, while the diabetes drug dapagliflozin and ipilimumab for first-line metastatic melanoma and small cell lung cancer are both in late-stage trials. B-MS, which has 60 compounds in development, also highlighted its earlier-stage programmes in hepatitis C and Alzheimer’s disease.

Chief executive James Cornelius, who will be succeeded by Lamberto Andreotti in May, said that the firm has “fundamentally differentiated ourselves from our competitors as a focused biopharmaceutical company that is well-positioned to deliver on the promise of our pipeline.” Mr Andreotti added that B-MS has “a solid balance sheet and financial flexibility with about $10 billion in cash” available to strengthen the company through acquisitions, noting that it will also “build upon the progress made in productivity initiatives”.

The presentation went down well with analysts but Tim Anderson at Sanford Bernstein issued a research note saying that although B-MS has been “steadfast in saying it would only pursue smaller deals as part of its ‘string of pearls’ approach, we continue to wonder whether a larger transaction might ultimately occur”.