The continuing upturn in sales of its antithrombotic blockbuster Plavix has helped Bristol-Myers Squibb post a major hike in its profits for the third quarter.

Net income leapt almost 154% to $858 million or $0.43 per share, while group sales were up 21.6% to $5.05 billion. Pharmaceutical revenues climbed 24.5% to $3.93 billion, helped by a major increase in sales of Plavix (clopidogrel).

This time last year, B-MS' failure to stop Apotex from flooding the US market with its generic version of the drug before an injunction was put in place cut badly into Plavix sales but the impact of copycat clopidogrel has well and truly worn off. Global sales of the treatment soared 99% to $1.25 billion and were up 128% in the USA.

As for B-MS’ other products, sales of the antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole) were up 34% to $420 million, while the antihypertensive Avapro/Avalide (irbesartan) increased 12% to $309 million. The firm's HIV drugs also made a solid contribution, with revenues from its Sustiva (efavirenz) franchise rising 18% to $237 million and Reyataz (atazanavir) was up 17% to $273 million.

Sales of Sprycel (dasatanib) for leukaemia, launched in June 2006, rose to $46 million from $11 million in the third quarter last year, while Orencia (abatacept) for rheumatoid arthritis brought in $76 million, up from $34 million in the same period last year. Revenues from Baraclude (entecavir) for hepatitis B reached $72 million, compared to $22 million in third-quarter 2006.

On the negative side, generic competition battered sales of cholesterol-lowerer Pravachol (pravastatin), which fell 55% to $86 million, while anticancer agent Taxol (paclitaxel) sank 26% to $102 million. In terms of pipeline, the company noted that it has been in discussions with the US Food and Drug Administration regarding vinflunine for bladder cancer and “based on FDA feedback”, it does not expect to file a New Drug Application for the treatment of bladder cancer before the end of the year, as previously stated.

No specifics over job cuts
The results were slightly above analysts’ expectations and chief executive James Cornelius said that “our key products continue to demonstrate solid growth as we move forward with the transformation of our pharmaceutical business”. He went on to note that B-MS is making “significant progress in identifying ways to operate more efficiently and reduce costs companywide,” echoing the firm’s intention, announced in July, to start a restructuring programme.

This will lead to job cuts but Mr Cornelius remained tight-lipped as to the scale of the reductions and noted that more details will be revealed at a meeting with investors and analysts on December 5.