Last year was somewhat of a mixed bag for Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Novartis, which yesterday said that net income rose 15% to $5.8 billion dollars on the back of a 14% hike in net sales to $28.2 billion versus the previous year [[22/01/04a]]. However, financials faltered on a quarterly basis, as profits of $1.4 billion were up only 1% on 2003, and analysts’ sentiments were also tempered by a disappointing halving of operating income at generics unit, Sandoz, which had been the jewel in the company’s crown in 2003 but was hit by restructuring costs in 2004.

Nevertheless, pharmaceuticals led the pack, with a 15% increase in full-year sales to $18.5 billion, driven by strong performances from the company’s oncology and cardiology franchises. The company’s five blockbuster offerings – the blood pressure drug, Diovan (valsartan), the oncology drugs, Glivec (imatinib), and Zometa (zolendronic acid) the anti-fungal, Lamisil (terbinafine), and Neoral (cyclosporine) for transplant rejection – also bolstered growth, collectively posting 15% growth in 2004. Specifically, Diovan rose 28% to $3.1 billion, Lamisil was up 19% to $1.2 billion, Glivec surged 45% to $1.6 billion, and Zometa was up 21% to $1.1 billion. Although Neoral remains a blockbuster offering, sales for the year dipped 1% to just over $1 billion. Other products also put in good showings, with the anti-hypertensive, Lotrel (almodipine/benazepril), rising 18% to $920 million, Elidel for eczema climbing 49% to $349 million, the beast cancer agent, Femara (letrozole), leapt 70% to $386 million and the irritable bowel syndrome drug, Zelnorm/Zelmac (tegaserod), leaping a staggering 81% to $299 million.

Novartis believes it is well positioned for 2005 and expects to deliver high single-digit sales growth. It also says that several products already filed with the European and US regulatory agencies could win the green light this year, and is expecting Lotrel to become another blockbuster drug in the coming months.