It looks like Bristol-Myers Squibb is starting to overcome the drag of generic competition to Plavix and Avapro, with the firm posting a healthy rise three-quarter sales. 

The US drug giant has had to grapple with a plunge in turnover of its bloodthinner Plavix from more than $6 billion a year to the $177 million booked for the first three quarters of this year.

But the books show overall sales for this quarter of $4.07 billion, overshooting the $4 billion average forecast by analysts compiled by Bloomberg, and marking a 9% rise from the same period last year.

Taking a closer look, US net sales inched up 1% to $2.0 billion in the quarter, while internationally they leapt 18% to $2.0 billion.

Global sales successes include: prostate cancer drug Yervoy (ipilimumab), which grew 33% to $238 million; the diabetes franchise Onglyza/Kombiglyze (saxagliptin), up 19% to $211 million; Sprycel (dasatinib) for leukaemia, leaping 20% to $316 million; rheumatoid arthritis drug Orencia (abatacept), climbing 22% to $375 million; and hepatitis B drug Baraclude (entecavir), up 9% to $378 million.

On the downside, antipsychotic Abilify (aripiprazole) slipped 16% to $569 million, while the antihypertensive Avapro/Avalide (irbesartan) fell a further 25% to $71 million.

Eliquis (apixaban), the group's new anticoagulant vying for market share with veteran warfarin, is proving to be a bit of a slow starter, generating sales of just $41 million. BMS remains confident that sales will take off as access to the drug improves, but analysts don't seem to share the optimism. 

“I struggle to remember slow ramps that all of a sudden take off,” Bloomberg reported Edward Jones analyst Judson Clark as saying. “We're getting to the point where Eliquis may be a solid drug, [but] it may not be the resounding success everyone thought".

Back to the books and helping to push the company's performance back into the black, marketing, selling and administrative expenses decreased 8% to $980 million and R&D costs dropped 6% to $893 million in the quarter.

This, taken together with the sales increases, helped the firm to generate net earnings attributable to B-MS of $692 million, or $0.42 per share, in the quarter, compared to a net loss of $711 million, or $0.43 per share, a year ago.

Looking forward, the group has also confirmed its 2013 GAAP EPS guidance range of $1.41 to $1.49.