Sanofi-Aventis has posted a solid set of financials this morning which reveal 3.3% decline in sales for the first quarter to 6.94 billion euros and operating profits of 2.52 billion euros, down 7.2%.

Pharmaceutical revenues inched up 0.6% to 6.39 billion euros, despite the decline in sales suffered by the Stilnox/Ambien (zolpidem) sleeping pill franchise as a pile of generic versions hit the market after US patent protection was lost. Ambien sales sank 62.3% to 210 million euros (down 69.7% in the USA), while generic versions of the cancer drug Eloxatin (oxaliplatin), this time in Europe, led to a 6.0% revenue decline to 342 million euros.

On the positive side, Sanofi celebrated another increase in sales of its bloodthinner blockbuster Plavix (clopidogrel), up 18.9% to 662 million euros, while the antithrombotic Lovenox (enoxaparin) leapt 21.5% to 717 million euros. However there are fears that the latter could soon succumb to generic pressure as Momenta Pharmaceuticals and Novartis’ Sandoz unit hope to refile their copycat version to the US Food and Drug Administration with requested additional data in the third quarter.

Back to the sales and there were strong showings for the cancer drug Taxotere (docetaxel), sales of which were up 13.3% to 484 million euros, while the diabetes drug Lantus (insulin glargine) shot up 30.8% to 557 million euros.

Human vaccine sales rose 2.8% to 548 million euros, driven by meningitis shot Menactra, which was up 48.1% to 99 million euros, and Adacel, an adult tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster rose 8.9% to 66 million euros. Sales at Sanofi Pasteur MSD, the joint venture with Merck & Co in Europe rose 87.4% to 279 million euros, buoyed by the cervical cancer jab Gardasil, which had revenues of 162 million euros.

Saredutant study fails
There was less good news on the R&D side, however, as Sanofi revealed that its INDIGO study looking at the experimental antidepressant saredutant in the elderly did not reach significance versus placebo. Nevertheless, the firm said that pooled results from other studies could still prove that saredutant, which Sanofi says lacks the side effects of current antidepressants, is beneficial. On the bright side, the French drugmaker reported positive results from GEMS, its third Phase III trial evaluating eplivanserin in sleep quality. It plans to file for approval in the second half of 2008.

The company said that barring major adverse events, it still expects earnings per share growth of around 7% this year, excluding selected items and at constant exchange rates. Investors seem to be concerned about the stock however and Sanofi’s shares at 9.45am had slipped 1.5% to 49.02 euros.