Bayer has posted healthy earnings for the second quarter, boosted by strong sales of Nexavar, Betaferon and the German firm’s contraceptives.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation and before special items rose 5% to 1.90 billion euros, while sales edged up 3.6% to 8.51 billion euros, a good result considering the unfavourable effects of currency exchange. This effect meant that sales at Bayer’s healthcare division were up just 0.5% to 3.73 billion euros, while pharmaceutical revenues were flat at 2.58 billion euros.

Growth was driven by Schering’s Betaferon/Betaseron (interferon beta 1b) for multiple sclerosis (274 million euros; +7.0%) and the Yasmin (ethinyl estradiol/drospirenone) contraceptive franchise which climbed 22.0% to 305 million euros. Mirena, the firm’s levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine contraceptive system, contributed 118 million euros, up 34.1%. The haemophilia agent Kogenate (recombinant antihaemophilic factor), fell 13.3% to 182 million euros, which Bayer said was a result of order patterns, while the antibiotic Avelox (moxifloxacin) had flat sales of 90 million euros.

Nexavar (sorafenib), which is now approved for liver as well as advanced kidney cancer, contributed 108 million euros, up 80%. Sales of the hypertension treatment Adalat (nifedipine) were down 2.5% to 158 million euros, and the erectile dysfunction drug Levitra (vardenafil) rose 3.7% to 84 million euros. The antibiotic Cipro/Ciprobay (ciprofloxacin) fell 17.2% to 93 million euros as a result of generic competition.

Bayer chairman Werner Wenning said that “the successful first half of 2008 has strengthened our confidence for the full year,” and he forecast total sales growth for the full year of over 5%. As for the healthcare business, the firm “continues to expect that we will grow with or above the market in all divisions.”

Meantime, Bayer has noted that partner Johnson & Johnson has submitted a New Drug Application to regulators in the USA for Xarelto (rivaroxaban). The anticoagulant, taken as a single tablet, once-daily, has been filed for the prevention of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in patients undergoing hip or knee replacement surgery.

The submission comes days after the European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products in Human Use recommended the approval of Xarelto.