Solvay has posted a 4% rise in sales for the third quarter as its pharmaceuticals division made solid progress on the strong performance of its fenofibrate cardiovascular drugs.

Total sales for the Belgian group, which also specialises in chemicals and plastics, were 2.40 billion euros while operating profits were down 6% to 292 million. Net income decreased 68% to 75 million euros, due in part to a 92 million euro writedown on holdings acquired between the two World Wars in the struggling Belgian financial services group Fortis.

Pharmaceutical revenues were up 2% to 696 million euros, hit by the negative impact of the weak US dollar. For the nine-month period, sales were up just 1% to 1.94 billion euros and Solvay’s fenofibrate drugs such as TriCor (sold by Abbott) brought in 345 million euros, a rise of 7%.

Creon, a pancreatic enzyme replacement product, had nine-month sales of 158 million euros (+10%), while the firm’s Androgel testosterone replacement therapy rose 2% to 239 million euros. Revenues from the synthetic cannabinoid Marinol (dronabinol), for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and appetite loss in AIDS patients, fell 49% to 41 million euros as a result of generic competition.

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. In terms of future sales, the firm has high hopes for Simcor, which was recently approved in the USA and combines Abbott’s Niaspan (extended-release niacin) and simvastatin, the active ingredient in Merck & Co’s Zocor which came off-patent last year. Solvay has been co-marketing the cholesterol combo since April.

The company is also waiting to hear from the US Food and Drug Administration about TriLipix, a new-generation fenofibrate co-developed with Abbott. The agency said last week that it needs more time to finish evaluating the compound, which has been filed for use as a monotherapy and in combination with statins, but Solvay and Abbott remain confident that it will obtain clearance in the fourth quarter.