Swiss drugmaker Novartis posted a healthy set of third quarter figures today, with double digit gains in sales helped by a doubling in revenues at its generics subsidiary Sandoz.

Novartis reported group sales up 14% to $23.6 billion dollars in the first nine months of 2005, while operating income up 13% to $5.4 billion, despite the costs of acquiring generics houses Hexal and Eon Labs [[21/02/05b]] [[21/07/05f]] and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s over-the-counter medicines business [[01/09/05h]] during the period.

All told, Novartis has spent around $9 billion on acquisitions over the past year, and has also made a $4.5 billion offer to buy out vaccine company Chiron, in which it already holds a 42.5% stake. Chiron rejected the bid last month [[26/09/05b]] [[01/09/05a]].

Sandoz led the charge, however, with sales up 43% year-to-date and a 106% hike in third-quarter sales to $1.5 billion, albeit with the addition of Hexal and Eon, to $1.5 billion. Without the acquisitions, Sandoz‚ sales would have grown 9%.

Operating income at the generics subsidiary dipped on the cost of the acquisitions, however, down 5% to $223 million, although Novartis said the greater-than-expected contribution from the new additions meant that the negative impact on full-year operating income for the group would be lower than originally forecast, at $75-$150 million.

Meanwhile, in Novartis’ flagship branded pharmaceuticals business, the cardiovascular and oncology franchises did particularly well, growing 15% and 23% respectively. Hypertension drugs Diovan (valsartan) and Lotrel (amlodipine) saw nine-month sales rise by 18% to $2.68 billion and 17% to $778 million, respectively. Meanwhile, the leukaemia drug Gleevec/Glivec (imatinib) advanced to $1.58 billion, a rise of 31%, the breast cancer drug Femara (letrozole) climbed 44% to $390 million and Zometa (zoledronic acid) for bone metastases climbed 15% to $920 million.

Novartis Consumer Health also made a useful contribution, with sales up 9% to $1.8 billion.