Novartis has posted a strong set of financials for the second quarter this morning, boosted by strong sales of its newer drugs.

Net profits shot up to $2.42 billion, an increase of 19%, as sales rose 11.0% to $12.13 billion. Pharmaceutical turnover climbed 8% to $7.67 billion.

Novartis’ biggest-seller was the blood pressure lowerer Diovan (valsartan), as sales inched up 1% to $1.55 billion, while revenue from Glivec/Gleevec (imatinib), for chronic myeloid leukaemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumours, were up 8% to $1.08 billion. Femara (letrozole), for women with hormone-sensitive breast cancer, climbed 10% to $338 million and Zometa (zoledronic acid) for cancer complications brought in $378 million, up 6%. Turnover of the acromegaly therapy Sandostatin (ocreotide) rose 11% to $312 million.

As for Novartis’ newer products, the cardiovascular drug Exforge (amlodipine plus valsartan) brought in $227 million, up 37%, while Exjade (deferasirox), the first once-daily oral therapy for treating patients with iron overload, was up 11% to $192 million. The antihypertensive Tekturna/Rasilez (aliskiren) leapt 56% to $103 million.

Other highlights were the sales of Reclast/Aclasta (zoledronic acid) for osteoporosis which climbed 23% to $142 million, while Lucentis (ranibizumab) for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration shot up 29% to $377 million. Turnover from Galvus (vildagliptin) for type 2 diabetes soared 136% to $90 million.

The figures were also boosted by the contribution of the vaccines and diagnostics unit, where revenues soared 135% to $564 million. Some $200 million of that came from the company’s influenza A (H1N1) vaccine.

Chief executive Joe Jimenez said the results were “driven by our success in innovation across the portfolio, as recently launched products comprised 21% of group sales”. He added that “we are making great progress on all three strategic priorities of innovation, growth and productivity.”

On a conference call this morning, Mr Jimenez stated that the firm is getting ready for the integration of eyecare specialist Alcon. Despite the opposition of minority shareholders at the latter, he believes that the law is on his company’s side to push through the deal, saying “even if there is litigation, Novartis will prevail".

Novartis lifted its sales guidance, saying it expects to deliver "constant currency group sales growth at mid-to-high single digits." Previously, the Basel-based group forecast mid-single-digit sales growth.

$152.5 million sex discrimination payment
Meantime, Novartis is to pay up to $152.5 million to settle a gender discrimination class action lawsuit in the USA.

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, will see the firm spend $22.5 million on improvements to policies and programmes to promote equality in the workplace. Mr Jimenez said that "while we believe that there was not systemic discrimination…the trial revealed that some of our associates had experiences influenced by managerial behaviour inconsistent with our values”.

David Sanford, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said Novartis has agreed to “a momentous settlement”, adding that the terms of the agreement “allow for full compensation of both former and current female field force employees, ensuring that every woman who worked at Novartis over the past eight years has been compensated fairly." The settlement covers claims by 5,600 current and former female staff.