Cost-cutting and strong sales of the blockbuster bloodthinner Plavix have helped push net income up 8.2% to $764 million, or $0.38 per share, for the second quarter.

Group sales shot up 16.4% to $5.20 billion, while pharmaceutical turnover was up 16.2% to $4.48 billion, helped by a major increase in sales of Plavix (clopidogrel), up 17% to $1.39 billion. Revenues from the antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole) were up 28% to $529 million, while the firm's HIV drugs also made a solid contribution.

Sales of its Sustiva (efavirenz) franchise rose 21% to $282 million and Reyataz (atazanavir) was up 28% to $324 million. The cancer agent Erbitux (cetuximab) brought in $196 million, up 21%.

As for B-MS’ newer drugs, sales of Sprycel (dasatanib) for leukaemia, launched two years ago, rose to $76 million from $35 million in the same quarter last year, while Orencia (abatacept) for rheumatoid arthritis rose 93% to $106 million. Revenues from Baraclude (entecavir) for hepatitis B increased 140% to $136 million.

So a healthy set of results and chief executive James Cornelius noted that in addition to strong sales growth, “we are making acquisitions, entering licensing agreements and investing in our pipeline.” He added that “we are also taking steps now to manage through future exclusivity losses”, while “improvement initiatives are enabling us to better manage our costs and work more efficiently”.

Extra $1 billion cost savings planned
These initiatives were announced in December last year when B-MS said it was cutting its work force by 10%, some 4,300 jobs, and closing or divesting about half of its 27 manufacturing plants. These moves, which are to be completed by 2010, will lead to savings of around $1.5 billion but the firm says it now plans an additional $1 billion in cost savings by 2012.

Chief financial officer Jean-Marc Huet, said that “we have commissioned several internal teams to execute against some already identified projects”. More information on this second wave of initiatives and subsequent cost savings will be provided by year-end, he added.