Solvay has posted a 25% increase in net income to 182 million euros for the fourth quarter boosted by a strong earnings rise from its pharmaceuticals division.

Total sales for the Belgian group, which also specialises in chemicals and plastics, edged up 1% to just under 2.37 billion euros while pharmaceutical revenues were down 2% to 656 million euros. However operating profit at the unit rose 42% to 104 million euros, which the firm said was due to “the more aggressive management of inventories by distributors and especially sustained R&D efforts”.

Full –year pharmaceutical turnover at 2.59 billion euros was flat, negatively impacted by 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).

Solvay’s fenofibrate cardiovascular drugs such as TriCor (sold by Abbott), which came with the acquisition of France’s Fournier in 2005, brought in 433 million euros in 2007, a rise of 5%. The firm’s Creon pancreatic enzyme replacement product had sales of 198 million euros (+4%), while the firm’s Androgel testosterone replacement therapy rose 12% to 308 million euros. Sales of the synthetic cannabinoid Marinol (dronabinol), for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and appetite loss in AIDS patients, slipped 1% to 105 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 by then, boosted by the extension of its fenofibrate franchise. This will be led by SLV348, which is being co-developed with Abbott and was 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.

The company still has high hopes for the experimental antipsychotic bifeprunox, for which Solvay and partner Wyeth received a non-approvable letter from the US Food and Drug Administration in August and the firms are currently examining the structure of the extra study requested by the agency.