Novartis has posted a strong set of financials for the quarter which show that profits leapt 32% as the firm starts to recover from patent expiries in the USA, where a further 550 sales jobs are to be lost.

Net income was $2.08 billion, while sales increased 12% to just under $10.75 billion. Pharmaceutical revenues were up 14% to $6.71 billion, driven by the blood pressure lowerer Diovan (valsartan), where sales increased 14% to $1.44 billion, while another blood-pressure-lowering drug Lotrel (almodipine/benazepril) climbed 53% to $101 million.

Glivec/Gleevec (imatinib), for chronic myeloid leukaemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumours, leapt 21% to $950 million, while sales of Femara (letrozole), for women with hormone-sensitive breast cancer, were up 20% to $289 million and the acromegaly therapy Sandostatin climbed 14% to $294 million. As for Novartis’ newer products, the cardiovascular drugs Tekturna/Rasilez (aliskiren) and Exforge (amlodipine plus valsartan brought in $40 million and $115 million, respectively. Exjade (deferasirox), the first once-daily oral therapy for treating patients with iron overload, soared 51% to $148 million.

Lucentis (ranibizumab) for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration shot up 81% to $242 million, while the osteoporosis drug Aclasta/Reclast brought in $66 million, up from $5 million in the like, year-earlier period. The effect of patent expiries hit sales of the epilepsy drug Trileptal (oxcarbazepine), down 57% to $86 million.

The Basel-based group also announced strong growth for its vaccines and diagnostics segment, with sales up 16% to $666 million, while revenues from the generics unit Sandoz and the consumer health division reached $1.90 billion and $1.47 billion, respectively, both up 7%. Novartis is also making some senior management changes which include Joerg Reinhardt, head of vaccines and diagnostics, taking up the new role of chief operating officer. He will be replaced by Andrin Oswald, chief executive of recently-acquired Speedel.

Sandoz boss Andreas Rummelt will take up a new position as head of quality assurance and technical operations, being replaced by Jeff George, while Thomas Ebeling, head of consumer health, is to leave the company. His role will be assumed by George Gunn who is the head of animal health.

Novartis also announced a new programme, called the Customer Centric Initiative, to deal with a US market that “continues to diversify and become more complex”. This involves setting up a regional US business model “that will better address customer needs and differences in local market dynamics”, which will reduce 550 full-time sales positions. A one-time charge of $ 20 million is planned to be taken in the fourth quarter, and the move will result in annual cost savings of $80 million from 2010.

Chief executive Daniel Vasella said the firm had achieved strong results in the third quarter “despite significant volatility in the global economic environment”. He added that “we are rejuvenating our portfolio” as recently-launched pharma products have brought in $2.1 billion in sales to date in 2008 and “despite the economic uncertainty in the world markets, Novartis is on track for another year of record results in 2008”.

The company said it expects pharmaceutical sales to grow at a "mid-single-digit'' rate for the full year, compared with an earlier estimate of an increase in the low single-digits.