Bristol-Myers Squibb yesterday reported that sales crept up just 1% (including a favourable 2% foreign exchange impact) to $4.9 billion during the second quarter of the year, but net income rose more impressively at 6% to $726 million as the firm was helped by the receding threat of generic Plavix (clopidogrel) in the US supply chain. However, as with many of its compatriots in major pharma, BMS also announced "comprehensive cost reduction programmes" - including job cuts in some areas - in a bid to drive sales and earnings growth.

US pharmaceutical sales rose 2% to $2.2 billion during the quarter thanks to key products and newer offerings, including the hepatitis drug Baraclude (entecavir; $59 million), Orencia (abatacept; $55 million) for arthritis and Sprycel (dasatinib; $35 million) for leukaemia. However, international pharmaceutical sales dipped 3% (including a 5% favourable foreign exchange impact) to $1.6 billion, as generic competition to Pravachol (pravastatin) and Taxol (taxotere) started to bite.

The clotbuster Plavix stole the crown during the quarter, reeling in $1.2 billion, as it started to recover from generic firm Apotex' at-risk launch and subsequent recall of copycat clopidogrel after a US court ruled in favour of BMS and partner Sanofi-Aventis' patents. Meanwhile other strongly performing drugs included: the hypertension medicine Avapro/Avalide (irbesartan), which rose 6% to $297 million; the schizophrenia agent Abilify (aripiprazole), which increased 27% to $412 million; Reyataz (atazanavir) for HIV, up 8% to $254 million; and Sustiva - also for HIV - which jumped 21% to $233 million.

However, on the down side, the firm's colorectal cancer drug Erbitux dropped 6% to $162 million in the period, because of increased competition in the market. Pravachol's quarterly sales decreased 59% to $132 million compared with the same quarter a year ago, while Taxol tumbled 36% to $95 million.

BMS raised its earnings forecast for the full year on "anticipated continued strong performance of several key products and continued focus on cost control" and now believes that earnings per share will come in between $1.35 and $1.45, compared to a previous forecast of $1.24 to $1.34. More details concerning its cost-containment plans will be unveiled later in the year.