Solvay has posted a 25% increase in net income to 233 million euros for the third quarter boosted by a solid performance from its pharmaceuticals division.

Total sales for the Belgian group, which also specialises in chemicals and plastics, were up 4% to just under 2.40 billion euros while pharmaceutical revenues increased 11% to 683 million euros. Operating profit at the latter unit rose 7% to 130 million euros.

For the nine-month period, pharmaceutical turnover was flat at 1.94 billion euros, which Solvay said was a reasonable result given the impact of the weak dollar on sales, significant pressure on prices in the European pharmaceuticals market and the expiration of marketing rights to the antiulcerant Pantoloc (pantoprazole), which had brought in 72 million euros in the first five months of 2006.

In terms of other products, its fenofibrate cardiovascular drugs such as TriCor (sold by Abbott), which came with the acquisition of France’s Fournier in 2005, brought in 322 million euros for the nine-month period, a rise of 4%. Solvay’s Creon pancreatic enzyme replacement product had sales of 144 million euros (+2%), while the firm’s Androgel testosterone replacement therapy rose 10% to 234 million euros. Sales of the synthetic cannabinoid Marinol (dronabinol), for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and appetite loss in AIDS patients, rose 10% to 80 million euros, while its influenza vaccine Influvac soared 60% to 93 million euros.

Solvay said the implementation of its pharmaceuticals savings plan is “continuing as planned,” having set itself a goal of 300 million euros in annual cost savings by 2010. The company is hoping that its drugs division will be posting sales of 3.2 billion euros, boosted by the extension of its fenofibrate franchise. This will be led by SLV348, which is being co-developed with Abbott and is now in Phase III and should be submitted for approval in the USA in the fourth quarter of this year, Also, AstraZeneca and Abbott are developing a fixed-dose product, combining the former’s lipid-lowerer Crestor (rosuvastatin) and SLV348 and the filing for that is expected to occur in 2009.

Another boost to earnings is likely to come from a pact, again with Abbott, which will see Solvay get certain co-promotion rights in the USA to Simcor, a fixed-dose combination of Niaspan (extended-release niacin) and simvastatin, the active ingredient in Merck & Co’s Zocor which came off-patent last year. The drug was filed with the US Food and Drug Administration in April. The company added that it still has high hopes for the experimental antipsychotic bifeprunox, for which Solvay and partner Wyeth received a non-approvable letter from the FDA in August and the firms are currently examining the structure of the extra study requested by the agency.